It was fun last month to see how you track your own reading lists. Goodreads sounds like a great idea and I wish it had existed 20 years ago but I can't imagine going in now to enter everything I've read or trying to manage between an old spreadsheet list and a new internet list. But I can see how it's a great tool and a great way to get ideas for new books to read.
This is the last report for the year. My spreadsheet tells me that I "read" 101 books this year. My favorites were:
The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter
Follow The River by James Alexander Thom
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Chain of Title by David Dayan
John Adams by David McCullough
The Dead Key by DM Pulley
My favorite series are:
Harry Bosch by Michael Connolly
Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers by John Sandford
William Monk by Anne Perry
Tracey Crosswhite by Robert Dugoni
Here are the books for December. It was a slow reading month with only 6 books but 5 out of the 6 were good!
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
by Sharyn McCrumb, Narrated by Sally Darling
This is the second book in the Ballad series. I read the first one, If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O, back in April. I didn't love the first one but I liked it well enough to try another. These are set in the mountains of Tennessee just west of the North Carolina border.
Here's the publisher's summary:
Laura Bryce has lived in the small east Tennessee community such a short time that she still feels like an outsider. But when there is violence on the Underhill farm, the sheriff calls on her to represent the church. He will handle the bodies, but she must comfort the bereaved. However, the unspeakable carnage she confronts in the farmhouse will push her down a rocky pathway of danger and heartache.
I have no idea where that came from but it doesn't come close to describing the plot of the novel. Yes there's a murder-suicide at the Underhill farm but Laura Byce is barely connected to it. In fact, no one in the town ever gets around to helping out the 2 surviving Underhill kids. Add in a sheriff who has an uncharacteristic obsession with Naomi Judd, a dying old man obsessed with a polluted river that no one cared about before, a woman who sees dead people and the future and you get a tedious book about weird people in a small town who are just making do day to day. I couldn't wait for it to end.
By C.J. Box, Narrated by David Chandler
After the disappointment of The hangman's Daughter I needed a reliable read. Joe Pickett is always reliable. I'm actually reading this series out of order but it's not a problem. This is an early one. I think it's #4 in the series.
Joe and his daughters are fishing when they stumble upon a mutilated deer. After some investigation Joe discovers that it's part of a series of crimes.
George, Nicholas and Wilhelm
By Miranda Carter, Read By Rosalyn Landor
I've mentioned in the past that my history education leaves much to be desired. I try to make up for that by reading. But even in my self-education I have pretty much ignored World War I. When this book showed up in the Daily Deal I got it. I also got a better education.
It's about the three rulers of Britain, Germany and Russia. They were first cousins. The book starts in the reign of Queen Victoria and takes us through the lives and reigns of George, Nicholas and Wilhelm.
While I enjoyed the book and learned a lot, it got tedious at times. It's a 21 hour read and probably could have been 15 but it was still worthwhile. But I only recommend this one to serious history readers.
Corridors of the Night
by Anne Perry, Narrated by David Collacci
This is #21 in the William Monk series and was a great read to follow the seriousness of the previous history lesson. In this one Hamilton Rand is a genius chemist who is determined to find a cure for "white blood disease", what we now know as leukemia. He is completely blind to the risk and costs of the treatment. Hester Monk isn't.
I don't know how Anne Perry keeps this series so fresh but I'm glad she does.
These are hard core mysteries but they are harder edged than cozy mysteries. I have a friend who prefers cozy mysteries. Her husband prefers hard core mysteries. They have trouble finding books to listen to on long car rides. I recommended that she give Anne Perry a try. I think her books are a good mid-way between the 2 genres.
The Winthrop Woman
By Anya Seton, Narrated by Corrie James
Anya Seton is most knows for romance novels so it's no surprise that I had never heard of her until this book appeared as a Daily Deal. It's historical fiction based on the life if Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett. The book seems to stay relatively true to her biography (on Wikipedia) and expertly weaves in the events and mores of the time. She was born in England but arrived in Massachusetts with the Puritan immigration. Her uncle and father-in-law, John Winthrop was the first Governor of Massachusetts. Elizabeth was one of the few female landowners in the mid-1600's in the new colony and owned much of the land that is now Greewich, CT. But even if you don't like history, this is mostly a novel about a woman who didn't quite fit in with the times but who made a good life for herself on her own terms. More research on the web will help you distinguish the history from the fiction....if you are interested.
By Robert McCammon, Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
This is the third installment in the Matthew Corbett series. It's 1702 in New York City when Matthew and his partner are hired to escort a mass murderer from an insane asylum near Philadelphia to the docks of NYC. Things, of course, don't go as planned.
Like any story about a serial killer this one has large doses of gruesomeness. Not enough to give me nightmares but its' still pretty raw.
Like the other books it's really well written and well narrated. It's important to read these books in order. There's way too much overlap with the story lines to try to follow this book before reading the other two. It even ends with hints to the next installment. I should probably read these a little closer together so I don't forget the important characters.
Parasol - the last finish of 2017
One more finish for 2017!
This quilt had no purpose other than to get me to quilt one of my own hand dyed mandala fabrics. Like a lot of people, I avoid using "special" fabrics and once I do I want the resulting project to be perfect. I knew that I needed to get over all of that so I picked a pink mandala because that's my least favorite color. That helped me not worry about perfection but wasn't much for motivation! I was an admirable procrastinator with this quilt.
But from a purely education point of view this was a really valuable quilt. I learned some things about design and committing myself to task.
Even the thread was a lesson. The only pink threads I had were some acrylic embroidery threads that I bought from Lunn Fabrics when they closed their hand dyed shop. They are beautiful threads but didn't run well on my APQS. I'm happy to discover that they run just fine on my Innova.
I started with the 4 center sections that are cross hatched and regretted it immediately. I knew that I had to repeat the crosshatching somewhere else. I eventually settled on the corners. For the rest of it I built the "frames" for each section and figured out what to do as I went along. I really was a good exercise and now I'm looking forward to doing another. But the next time I will do better planning.
I even took the bold step to use white for the back, which I love. I also love the blue binding.
This quilt isn't perfect and I don't have any immediate use for it but I'm glad I did it. It has issues and it really needs to be blocked again but it's done and it met my one goal: to get over my fear of quilting the mandala fabrics.
One quilt, Three ways
Apparently my Mom's scrap bin is OUT OF CONTROL because she's been on a mission lately to use them up. So much of a mission that she made 3 of these quilts for our CSQ veterans project. I picked the tops up from her Christmas Eve and wanted to have then quilted before she comes here tomorrow (so she can bind them while she visits). I decided to have a little fun and quilt each one differently.
With all of these quilts I had to have them simple and fast. That's how I roll with charity quilts and my favorite method is to travel the block in some fashion. For this quilt I did 2 passes on each row and it started like this.
From the lower left corner stitch a curved line to the right side of the block somewhere in the middle.
Stitch another curved line to the middle of the bottom of the block.
Finish the first pass with a curved line to the top right corner.
Work across the row with this motif along the diagonal strip of fabric in each block. The work back across the block doing the other side of the block.
This is a great beginner motif to practice making and meeting points.
The gift with this motif is the fantastic secondary pattern that results.
For the second quilt I did a motif that only required one pass for each row of blocks. Stitch a curved line from a corner to the center. At the center stitch some sort of motif on each side of the block. I used a ribbon curl and a spike. Then a curve in the opposite direction to the other corner.
This one took a little bit of concentration to make sure the curved lines in the sashing and the ribbon curls all went in the right direction but it didn't take long to get in the right groove.
You know I love my wavy crosshatching so I had to do a modified wavy crosshatch for the last one. I started with a gentle wave diagonally perpendicular to the center sashing.
Then I waved both sides of the sashing piece. This requires a little bit of thinking. In this pass I waved the left side of the sashing and I crossed over the sashing at each end to get to the next block.
This what the row looks like after all 3 passes. Can you see what's going to happen where the sashing from 4 blocks meet?
Beginners can do a lot of skill building with this by working to meet the stitching on each row at the corners.
Taking the time to meet those corners provides a big payoff on the back.
I have one more veterans quilt here to quilt before the end of 2017 and I will get that one done tomorrow.
Back to real life
I hope everyone had a great holiday (or weekend) as we did. We went to Chesapeake to surprise my brother at his Christmas Eve party. Almost all of my family was there and we had a great time. We finished off things with our annual prime rib dinner with friends last night. Now it's time to get back to some semblance of routine.
I wasn't totally unproductive last week though. I am on a mission to finish the binding on the pink mandala and quilt some veterans quilts before December 31. Here are 2 veterans quilts that I got done last week.
This is another of the quilts that was made with the "Ugly fabric challenge". Becky gave willing participants a yard of an ugly dark fabric. The person who made this quilt paired the ugly with the brightest fabrics she could find. I think the balance is perfect.
I quilted it with a wavy corsshatch and used a variegated thread in bright oranges and golds. It helped break up the expanses of dark.
This quilt was made by Becky. It may look like a lot of piecing but most of those gradient strips are just one piece. She got these at one of our trash-to-treasure sales. It was just a bundle of narrow strips and she worked magic with them.
I quilted this one very simply with black wavy lines. I think it was just the right amount of quilting.
I have to quilt a few more to meet my goals for the year so that's probably what you are going to see the rest of this week.
I finished up a couple of veterans quilts yesterday and saw that I had about 4" of batting and backing on one side of one quilt and decided that I would do some more thread trees.
I started with a stack of 4" x 6" pieces of white fabric. That's the size of a postcard so I knew if I kept my tree inside that space that I'd have the right size tree. I sketched a tree shape on the fabric but you will see that I didn't really follow that at all.
I liked the colors of this cone of thread and it's also about to run out so this is what I'm going to use until the cone is empty.
Thread sketch a wonky tree shape.
Start filling in and pretty much ignore the stitched outline.
Keep piling on the thread until a tier is finished. Move to the next tier and stitch some more. It's very meditative to do this.
Don't worry about the wayward lines. They will get cut away.
What a good use of the extra backing and batting. I feel so smugly clever.
And economical for using up 3 bobbins! The backs of these trees are pretty ugly but no one will see them.
Oh boy, do I like these! I have a head start on the 2018 Christmas cards.
With that I'm going to take a few days off the blog for Christmas. I'll be back Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
I love making my fabric postcards every year simply because I know how much fun they are to receive. Here are 4 handmade cards that I've received this year.
This first one of from Carol, a member of Country School Quilters. She fussy cut the cardinal and stitched it to a snowy background.
This one is from Estelle. She printed the tree using a thermofax screen from Stegart on Etsy. The raw edge of the fabric is perfect for garland!
This beauty is from Mary Anne. That's all hand stitching. She's one of those "crazy" quilters. Well, at least, she claims to be crazy.
This one isn't stitched, instead it's beautifully painted with watercolors by Linda.
I just remembered that I have 2 other handmade stamped cards that I forgot to photograph. Thanks to Deb and Gabriella for those!
Meanwhile, while I was quilting the purple quilt I had an idea for a postcard for next Christmas! I just freemotion stitched this on the longarm to the side of the purple quilt on the excess batting and backing. I really like how this turned out and it has the added benefit of using LOTS of this variegated thread. I will try to make lots of these throughout the year this year.
A purple quilt
This quilt is the result of leftovers of a King Sized Fractured quilt and it's leftovers quilt, Fractured Fragments. I took those leftovers and made some crumb blocks. The original intention was to make a baby quilt but then I had a big piece of purple fabric and this large lap quilt was born. I'm going to donate this one to Hanover Safe Place. One of my quit club friends donates lots of things there and this seemed like a good size quilt for them.
There was a vast field of purple with this one and I couldn't see just doing my usual overall type of quilting. I felt it needed something else and came up with this diamond motif to quilt between the blocks.
I used a variegated King Tut thread mostly because I'm trying to use up app of the variegated KT threads on my charity quilts. But that turned out to be a great move because there are a couple of places where I wobbled off of the ruler but you can't tell with the variegated thread. Bonus!
In the block spaces I used Masterpiece which is thin and barely shows. I know that Masterpiece isn't exactly intended for the longarm but it was the best purple match.
I didn't have enough purple for the binding and I'm glad. I think the yellow was a much better choice even though it really wasn't a choice at all. I used one of the Country School Quilters labels and found this fun ladybug fabric in my stash for the back.
Washed, dried and ready for it's new home! With Hobbs 80/20 batting it's really snuggly.
A couple more vets quilts
My friend, Lisa, is a relative new longarmer and recently bought her own Innova and has started quilting professionally! She's really built up a lot of proficiency very quickly but there are things that she still want to learn and practice. Recently it was learning pantographs. She came over and I taught her the basics. She took 2 vets quilts and borrowed a couple of pantographs and went at it.
She used the Feathered Curls pantograph on this one.
This one is a Hunter's Star. I really love this pattern and really need to make one for myself. I love them two-toned like this one and scrappy. They are all good!
For this quilt she did a simple wavy cross-hatch; my favorite go-to quilting method for charity quilts. I really like this quilt a lot. I think Becky made it. She used a dark "ugly" fabric and made it look awesome with scraps of plaid fabrics. It makes me want to go find the ugliest fabric in my and see if I can turn it into something really cool. If you wanted to make one for yourself Becky posted instructions here.
I won't count these quilts in my tally of vets quilts for the year and it's OK if I don't meet my goal of 40. With Tina and Marcy's help we've gotten at least 10 more done! I'm grateful for their help.
With the ornament kits finally done I can now get back to my applique and I got 2 more blossoms done this weekend.
With those 2 done I now have 2 borders done! I'm 45% done.
With 2 borders done you would think I'd be half done but I will have the 4 corners left to add after I sew the borders to the quilt. So 45% it is. I even got a few stitches in the 3rd border during the Cowboys/Raiders game last night.
If you read my book reviews you might remember that I mentioned that I read The Art of Invisibility and consider it the most important book that I've read this year. I decided that all of my friends are getting it for Christmas this year. Maybe a few of them will actually read it!
But just in case they are disappointed with the book I thought it might be a good idea to wrap it in something hand made.....or at least dyed. That something turned out to be tea towels. The photo above is how I folded them.
Well, after the first dye I thought they were kind of bland so I refolded, clamped and dyed them again. I like them much better now!
I wrapped them around the books to be the wrapping paper. They are tied with the string that I use in shibori dyeing. Ahhh, what synergy!
Here they are wrapped and ready for last night's delivery. At least I know they like and will use the towels!
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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.