February was a good month considering that I've been watching a lot of TV instead of listening to books. I finished 10 books and rejected 3 others part way through.
After seeing this list you will understand yesterday's post and my fixation on clearing out more of my own CRAP (Creative Resources and Projects). Secondhand by Adam Minter is a follow up to his outstanding first book, Junkyard Planet. Personally, I think everyone should read both but Secondhand will be the most relatable. It attempts to answer the question "What happens with our stuff when we die?"
The rest of the books are mostly reliable mystery and intrigue series and a couple of new series for me.
What books do you have to recommend this month?
Nothing to See Here
By Kevin Wilson, Read By Marin Ireland
Mom and I had to take a day trip to Roanoke this month and that entails about 6 hours of driving. I picked this book simply because it's about 6 hours long. It's not a horrible story but it's not the laugh riot that some reviewers said. The cover art is really stupid given the content of the book, it in no way reflects the story.
Lillian and Madison were boarding school roommates. Years later Madison is married to a rich politician and Lillian is down on her luck but they keep in touch. Now Madison's step-children are moving in with her just when her husband might become Secretary of State. She asks Lillian to come and take care of the kids for the summer. There's only one problem: the kids catch on fire when they are upset of disturbed.
The plot isn't very deep and the character development is kind of weak but it was an absolutely fine car book.
The Family Upstairs
By Lisa Jewell, Read by Tamaryn Payne, Bea Holland, Dominic Thorburn
Told from 3 points of view:
Libby Jones who discovers on her 25th birthday that she's inherited a house in Chelsea (London) from her birth family.
Henry and Lucy - a brother and sister who grew up in the house that was taken over by a cult figure.
Like her other books, this one is told back and forth in time revealing the history as Libby is discovering relevant information. If you like Lisa Jewell you will like this one.
By Jared Diamond, Read By Henry Strozier
I really enjoyed his previous book Guns, Germs and Steel but I had to give up on this one. It's supposed to be about nations in crisis and how they dealt with them. Instead there's way too many personal anecdotes.
I quit after Finland.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By Buck Shirmer
This is #10 in the Cork O'Connor mystery series. I needed something reliable after the let down of Upheaval and Cork O'Connor was just the ticket.
Cork is hired to find a missing art gallery owner and the federal government is proposing using an abandoned mine for nuclear waste storage. During the mine protests it's discovered that the Vermilion Drift shaft has a previously unknown entrance there are a number of bodies discovered, most from a 40 years ago.
Don't Believe It
By Charlie Donlea, Read By Nina Alvamar
This is the third book I've read by Donlea and I'll say that this author can really create a story with twists.
Sidney Ryan created the most watched documentary on TV. The Girl of Sugar beach documents the conviction of Grace Sebold of the murder of her boyfriend, Julian. She's been in a St Lucia jail for 10 years when Sidney takes on her case. Her investigation uncovers issues with the original evidence and case. The public outcry causes Grace to be released just as Sidney receives a letter telling her that she's got it all wrong.
I couldn't put it down.
By Adam Minter, Read By Daniel Henning
I loved Minter's Junkyard Planet so I couldn't wait to listen to Secondhand. I am especially appreciative that he stays out of the politics of environmentalism and instead focuses on hard facts about secondhand trading in things like clothing, electronics and cars. He starts with a question: What happens to people's stuff when they die? The answer is interesting and not straight-forward. He takes us through local thrift stores, Goodwill, electronics recyclers in Ghana, rag processors in Mumbai and secondhand stores in Japan. As in Junkyard Planet, we are reminded that there's good and bad in our consumer society but that free markets are a very efficient way to solve problems, including problems of dealing with waste.
One particular story that I appreciated was his trips to Ghana and explaining the secondhand electronics market there. He tells the real story that journalists got wrong in their sensationalized reports of ewaste dumping. The real story is much more interesting but governments have passed legislation that may cause more environmental harms than good based on the sensational reports.
It's another fascinating read by Minter and everyone interested in conservation should read it.
Murder on Black Swan Lane
By Andrea Penrose, Read By James Cameron Stewart
This is the first book in a new-to-me series set in Regency England. Actually the 3rd, and newest, book in the series came up in an Audible newsletter and as I was looking into it I discovered that I had bought this one in 2017 and never listened to it. I enjoyed it immensely. Fans of Anne Perry would like this series.
Charlotte Sloane draws satirical cartoons under her husband's pen name AJ Quill since he died 8 months ago. She keeps herself afloat along with 2 street urchins that she live with her. The Earl of Wrexford is a bored private scientist who's been publicly condemned by the Reverend Halsworthy. When Halsworthy is found dead Wrexford is the first suspect. He enlists Sloane's help in finding the true killer.
Lots of action, clever dialogue and Dickensian characters. It's perfectly narrated by James Cameron Stewart (Lord Ellesmere in Outlander).
By Ben Coes, Read By Ari Fliakos
This is the 8th book in the Dewey Andreas series. Andreas is a covert CIA operative who has decided that he's done with the CIA, until the President pays him a personal visit. The trouble is that the leader of North Korea has learned that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He's decided to go out in a blaze of glory but attacking the US with nuclear missiles. They need Dewey to stop it.
It's action packed for sure but the story line is even more outrageous than in previous books. This genre is known for absurd plot lines but this one even stretches commonly accepted absurdity. There's also a sub-plot that I never really understood except if it's there just to set up the next novel. I still enjoyed the ride though. Fliakos did a great job with the narration.
A Test of Wills
By Charles Todd, Read By Samuel Gillies
This is the first in a long series based around Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge. Rutledge has just returned from service in WWI. Like many soldiers he returns with his own ghosts and demons. His new assignment is to a difficult case in a small village and not a few people hope that he fails.
I'm not totally sold on this series yet. But I may give the series a try.
Murder on the Orient Express
By Agatha Christie, Read By Dan Stephens
That's right. I've never read this book before! I'm not about to write a review for one of the most popular books of all time but I will say that I certainly recommend this particular production. It's narrated by Dan Stephens (Matthew on Downton) and he's exceptional! It takes serious talent to do so many different voices and accents and actually keep them all in order.
The Western Star
By Craig Johnson, Read By George Guidall
This is the 13th book in the Walt Longmire series and it's the last one I will read. It's funny that I read this after Murder on the Orient Express because this was a total play on that book. Walt is getting his weapons certification when a young sheriff points out a photo of a group of sheriffs in front of the Wyoming Star train. It was taken before Walt's fateful first and last trip on the train. That story is overlaid with the upcoming compassionate parole hearing for the person who caused what happened on that train.
The train story is a total steal from MOTOE and the story flips back and forth between the events on the train and current day drama over the parole hearing. In the audio version there's no real break to let you know that there's a new chapter so it took a while to get used to the transitions.
Simultaneously, there's a side story with Catie that's a clear set up for the next book. I've read the reviews for the next book (which aren't so good) and with the way this book went I've decided that this series has finished for me.
I was so looking forward to The Beekeeper of Aleppo but I just couldn't get into it.
Songbird is the first book in a new series. Apparently Grainger has another detective series and this one is a spinoff. It's a police procedural but an incredibly tedious police procedural. Additionally the main character is supposed to be a young detective and the narrator is clearly an older posh gentleman. It doesn't work.
I found both of these books too tedious to stick with.
This week's inspiration is Celebrating Friendship by Heidi Kapszukiewicz. She surprised a friend with this beautiful applique quilt. She used several Stash Packs for the flower and bird elements of her quilt.
For sharing, Heidi received a 20% coupon for the shop that's good for 3 months! If you have made anything with my hand dyed fabric I hope you will consider sharing it in the Customer Gallery. The only rule is that projects have to be complete. It doesn't have to be made totally from hand dyed fabric, just include a recognizable amount.
But first, penguin eyes! I'm working on 20 penguin faces and finished 40 penguin eyeballs. I'm having some serious issues with my seam allowance on these tiny pieces. If I made this quilt again I'd create foundation papers to create the small eye and beak pieces. For me, that would be easier. The next step is to make beaks.
Back in the 90's the quilt fabric manufacturers really went wild creating beautiful fabrics for us and we dutifully bought all of it along with tools, notions and batting. We've created amazing collections of supplies and not it seems that we are starting to age out of the hobby and more and more of those collections are looking for new homes. I would be shocked if there's any quilt group out there that hasn't been gifted another quilter's stash. It's fun to go through other another quilter's stash looking for treasures.
A member of our group got a call last week of another quilter's estate that needed clearing. She wasn't a member of our group but as I went through some of the stuff I realized that she had been a Facebook follower of mine and we had chatted about her custom t-shirt and memory quilt business. Sadly she died less than a year after retiring. Her executor found us through a friend. She was clearly so grateful that we were able to take everything.
I brought home the batting to go through to see what we could use for veterans quilts and we have another quilter who will piece batting for the dozens of charity baby quilts that she makes. I also brought home the HST quilt that she was working on. Mom will finish that, maybe for 2 veterans quilts, maybe for something else. This lade lived in a 1 bedroom apartment and had this much batting! You can imagine how much fabric was there.
She saved EVERY tiny piece of batting. If you have scraps like this and haven't used them yet, please give yourself permission to throw them out. They are just a burden to you because every time you see them you think "I should do something with that". But if you haven't yet, you probably won't. But since I make dog beds from my own batting scraps I just added these to my bed bin.
It didn't take me long to sort through everything. The bin on the left will go to Karen for her baby quilts. The bag in the middle is pet bed stuffing and the stack on the right will be for 11 veterans quilts.
I immediately chopped up the pet bed bits and decided not to let this accumulate anymore.
It took less than 2 hours to make these 4 pet beds. All those fabrics are decorator fabrics that came from other quilter/sewist stashes and it was all free to me. The size of the bed is based on the optimal size I can cut the fabric. I do try to make only large beds because I think rescue organizations probably gets mostly large dogs. Also large beds are faster to make!
I even use scrap thread and finished off this cone of King Tut thread. I'm working my way through a spool of heavy cotton purple thread now.
The dogs don't care if the thread doesn't match.
All of this has made me, once again, start looking around all my creative spaces to think about moving out things that I'm not likely to use again. The first place I'm going is into my fiber art supplies. I have silk fibers and other things that I'm not likely to use. I did dabble in fiber art a few years ago and I use some small quantities of things in my postcards but I'm not likely to do much fiber art in the future simply because I'm so allergic to the adhesives and paints.
Maybe it's time to empty a cabinet or two.
Because I just got all of my new Paula Nadelstern fabrics!
Maybe I need a new rule. Everything coming in has to be balanced with things going out. The math lover in me would say:
Inputs <= Outputs
Remember these 2 veterans quilts from last month? Mom made the tops and the quilt design started with her bin of 2.5" squares and that blue calico in the border. She added the red and white frames.
Well, that blue fabric came from the stash of a friend's mother. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas had to move into assisted living because of her failing health (they are both 90ish). My friend shared the photos of the quilts with Mrs. Thomas and she remembered the fabric and was thrilled to know that the fabric went into veterans quilts. Well, Mom had even more of the blue fabric left so we decided to make one more for Mrs. Thomas. Mom brought the top to me this weekend and I got it quilted and bound Sunday and delivered it to my friend yesterday.
Here's her quilt and the timing was perfect. Apparently she dislocated her hip this week and after getting it back in joint she's apprehensive about getting up and moving around again. They intend to use the quilt for incentive to get her out of bed and into a chair.
I hope it works!
Here's a close up of that blue calico. She bought a LOT of it and there's still plenty left. She probably bought it back in the days of Piece Goods when you got deeper discounts when you bought more yardage. I was a garment sewist when Piece Goods was around. I loved that store.
I was talking with a friend Monday about the number of quilter's estates that are coming out looking for new homes lately. Everyone else's fabric is starting to become a little overwhelming. I have another story for you tomorrow.
Fortunately Mrs. Thomas didn't have a lot. Some of hers was heavy weight so I can use it for dog beds but I will admit (not to her) that some of it went to it's final reward.
For now, this one quilter's fabric is on it's way back to her as a comfort quilt and I hope it gets her motivated to move into her chair.
The dark side of fabric! All of the featured fabrics this week are the darkest of shades.
Fabric of the Week
We're starting with a dark grayed purple as the fabric of the week. Eggplant is a dark rich gray purple and it's on sale through Sunday. Fat quarter packs are ready to ship. Larger cuts will be dyed when ordered.
Here's a quilt that Katie Lewis made with a custom dyed purple similar to Eggplant. She made her stars with hand dyed Shades and Stash Packs.
Black and Midnight are Back!
The new Midnight Gradient was very popular and sold out in a week! If you missed your chance to get some, it's back.
Black, sold by the yard, is also back. This is my own black recipe and it's a deep, rich, beautiful black.
There are lots of other dark fabrics available too bring contrast, depth and richness to your next project!
Chris is away on a ski trip and I was going to have the whole weekend to myself for making stuff and it almost worked out that way. My brother and his partner are trying to move to Richmond to be closer to her family and apparently the market here is on fire and houses are selling fast. Wwhen she finds one she either gets her daughter or me to go look at them and that's what I got to do Saturday afternoon. I enjoy looking at houses so I don't mind at all. I take video tours to send to her so she can see a walk through of the house. Of course there are things that I miss (what kind of stove does it have) but also things that don't show in the photos (desperate need for gutters). It was fun and I look forward to the next one. It's so much less stress when it's not your money!
I did get a few things done though. This is not the postage stamp quilt like it's supposed to be. I had planned to baste the postage stamp but I realized that I need to get black batting. Since the Mid-Atlantic quilt festival is next week I'll pick it up then. Meanwhile I loaded this little quilt that Mom and I are making for a surprise gift. I'll tell you all about it Wednesday.
I started making penguin eyes. I thought the penguin quilt would be fast because the bodies are so big and there are only 20 of them.....but I missed the tiny penguin faces. Lots of 1 - 1.5" pieces to cut and sew for those and I'm having seam allowance size challenges.
I also finished the second crochet blanket. These things are really addictive and I find that I'm watching too much TV just so I can sit and do this. Hopefully I'll be over this soon and will save most of this for car and airplane rides. But I'm really pleased with the way it turned out.
The yarn is this Mandala and it used 2 balls to make a blanket about 30" square. This yarn is sooooo soft. To get the symmetry patterning I started the first ball from the outside and the second from the middle.
I did a border on this one just to try it out. It took 2 tries to get it right but I'm happy with it in the end. Crochet is so much easier to undo than stitching.
I have 2 more balls of this yard for another blanket and I'll splice in the leftover yarn into that one. I do not want to start creating a yarn scrap bag.
I think my third blanket is going to be a giant granny square.
I was so excited to get the other Hunter Star quilt top done 2 weeks ago and was ready to quilt it this week as the last thing before I start my new projects. I loaded it on the frame and picked a free motion edge-to-edge that seemed like a good idea at the time.
I didn't notice that I had caused this until I had it all done, off the frame and TRIMMED! Because the quilting pattern I used didn't go over the star centers I created fullness there. Stupid. Just stupid. Many bad words were spewed and I can tell you that I'm really good at profanity especially when I'm alone.
The profanity didn't solve the problem (it never does but it does feel good) so I had to actually start thinking.
Conveniently I have a file cabinet full of buttons and I thought I'd put a button in the center of each star. I tried hand sewing a button on the quilt but there were just too many layers.
Then I remembered that I could sew them on with my Brother sewing machine. It worked perfectly. I secured each one with a little dot of Fray Check on the front and back.
I wouldn't put buttons on a child's quilt but it works great on an adult quilt. I've used a quilt with buttons and it was just as comfy as a quilt without buttons.
Because of all the starch I used in this quilt I did wash it and that took more of the puffiness out of the stars. Now that my panic is over I'm really glad it happened because I love the effect of the buttons! It really puts focus on the stars.
Here's the finished quilt. I dyed a darker gray shade for the binding.
I love, love, love the backing and it was a great use of my Gray Skies mistake. All the pink part was cut off. I just hope there's a veteran at the hospital that likes gray as much as I do!
I know I talked about new projects yesterday, but I still had the two Hunter's Star veterans quilts to finish up. Here's the autumnal one. I absolutely love it. It started with a gradient similar to Sugar Maple. I added a couple of oranges, yellow and green fabrics to fill it out. I made this one difficult by making it completely scrappy. It meant that I had to keep up with pressing directions while I was arranging the blocks. It turned into kind of a nightmare but I eventually got it done.
I decided to do a little custom quilting on this one but it still had to be something quilt that I could do edge to edge. The result is a little awkward but repetition makes it work OK. When I used to teach new quilters I always told them "crappy quilting, done consistently, looks good"! I still use that mantra.
I used a veterans quilt back so I had space for another and quilted this Disappearing 9-patch.
It got the Loose Leaf pantograph in orange thread.
I picked up several more quilts at the meeting this month. Marcy will quilt 4 of them (3 have fragrance and I can't deal with that). I think there are 4 others but they are going to wait a while. It's only February and I'm already 25% into my goal of quilting 40 quilts.
Good news, it seems that my allergies/cold/flu from Monday was really just allergies. Now I"m just trying to figure out the source but it's all under control with the magic of Benedryl.
On the sewing front it's time for some planning. I can't just jump into projects. I really need plans and lists. I've spent the last few months finishing a lot of projects and I feel really good about that. So good, that now it's time to start lots of new projects. Actually, as I look through the list I really only have 1 new one but I have 3 others "on the list" that I'm going to give some attention to.
First, I need a new project for the longarm and this one is finally up. It's my oldest UFO and one of my personal favorite quilts. I started piecing it in 1998! The top was finished July 2017 and now it's time for quilting. I'll do lots of continuous curves in the 1: squares but all that black is calling for mandalas or maybe feathers. I've printed off a copy to play with some ideas.
I've got several piecing projects planned.
Fist is this UFO. I made a lot of stitched and clamped shibori samples a couple of years ago and have been searching for something to do with them.
I'm going to use some of them for penguin bellies! I'll get started on this one this week. It will be a lap quilt and will go to one of my SILs. The hard part with this one will be the tiny eyes and beaks. But I don't mind a little tedium when I have a good book to listen to.
Next it's time to put these together. I drew up this quick layout in EQ and that's probably how it's going to be done. I want to have a side border for a heavily feathered vine. I envision some cross-hatched diamonds between the blocks. Mom, Anne and I are going to Paducah this year and one of my goals on that trip is to find repro feedsack backing fabrics for this and the first flowers quilt.
Fabric of the Week
This week I have a quick newsletter for you and it's all about gradients. The Fabric of the Week is South Pacific. South Pacific is in light shades of watery blues and greens and could be a great background for a sea-themed quilt. It's 20% off through Sunday, or while it lasts!
Gradients are sold by the half yard. If you purchase multiple quantities it will come as one continuous piece.
Back in Stock
Sugar Maple and Pueblo are back in stock! Sugar Maple is great for cutting into leaf blocks in a traditional or modern quilt pattern. Pueblo is very popular for backgrounds for Southwest themed art quilts.
There are over 30 gradients to choose from! Check them all out in the shop.
Did you know that you can get any gradient on 108" wide fabric? This piece by Rachel Derstine was dyed with Blue Sky gradient. It can be any length, 1 yard or more and the gradient can be either orientation. Wide fabric dyed in a gradient pattern is $26/yard. Just send me a message and we can work out the details!
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.
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