Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

It's hard to believe that the last day of 2013 is upon us already. Where has this year gone?? It's certainly been a busy one, and the days have just flown by. So far, setting up my paper planner for 2014 is telling me that 2014 is going to be just as busy. There's some big stuff coming up, but for the moment I'm just feeling grateful for all of the wonderful things that happened this year...from my book coming out to my Juki joining my arsenal of sewing machines to expanding my teaching to finally getting myself down to a healthy weight to fun trips and great friends. It's been a great year, and I hope 2014 is just as awesome!

The January 2014 Lucky Star Block of the Month: The Sparkling Star

As the last day of 2013, today is the last day to get the 2013/2014 Lucky Stars Block of the Month Club subscription deal at $25, only at my Pattern Shop. Tomorrow, the clubs will officially be sold separately, for $15/each, and will not be available as a pair. The January block, the Sparkling Star, will be going out to subscribers this evening, in case you're kicking off the New Year in front of your sewing machine! I know that's my big plan for the night :) Have a safe and happy new year celebration tonight, everyone!
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the day before Christmas...

And all through the house...not a creature was stirring...except the mom who had eleven thousand things left to do before Santa comes to visit! It's Christmas Eve Day and in our family that means two things: it's my longest day of the year, and it's also my husband's birthday, so we've got our plates doubly full for the day.

I did manage to sneak in a bit of sewing time yesterday, to finish off a quilt top for a class I'll be teaching in Minnesota next summer at the Minnesota Quilt Show, using three blocks from the 2013 Lucky Stars Block of the Month club and one more that I designed a while back. I then found the perfect box (thank you Amazon!) in my garage to ship it and the other two quilt samples for my classes up there and brought everything to UPS yesterday, which was pleasantly empty compared to my last visit over there last week!

A Lucky Stars mini for the Minnesota Quilt Show

I better get going on today's To Do list before everyone wakes up - first up, making frosting for the husband's birthday cupcakes, yum. Happy holidays to you and your family! I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas, and that you enjoy a lovely day with your family :)

Happy holidays from my family to yours!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lucky Stars 2014 Bonus Block: The Blazing Star

Oh goodness, it feels sooooo good to sew on my Juki again!! I managed to get the bonus block finished up for the Lucky Stars 2014 Block of the Month Club at long last, and I'll be sending that to subscribers on Christmas Day, so keep your eyes peeled on your Inbox after the dust settles from your holiday festivities! It's the perfect thing to work on while the kids figure out how to use their new toys, right? :)

The 2014 Bonus Block for the Lucky Stars Block of the Month Club: The Blazing Star!

I'm trying to be a little more focused with my color palette and fabric choices for my 2014 blocks - I'm going with a mix of grays for my background fabrics, and then aquas, teals, oranges, and yellows for the focal parts of my blocks. I think I'm going to work mostly with solids, which should be fun, but I couldn't help throwing in a fun print from Brigitte Heitland's Comma collection for Moda in this block. I think it just makes the block sing. I cannot wait to start seeing your interpretations of this block next week! Don't forget to tag your social media postings of your Lucky Stars blocks with the #luckystarsbom hashtag, and you can always add your blocks to the Flickr group too!

Have a great day!
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Baking up some holiday cheer

Growing up, the baking and decorating loads and loads of Christmas cookies was one of those things that was a very big part of celebrating the holidays in my family. These days, it's not much different, although I think in the last few years, I've mellowed a little bit and stopped making eleventy-zillion different varieties of cookies. Last year I think I made 9, and this year I've whittled it down even further to just 7: wagon wheels, peanut butter balls, snowballs, sugar cookie cut-outs, festive fudge cookies, salted caramel brownie cookies, and muddy buddies. I always like to give a little something homemade to teachers and neighbors and such, and while I feel like this holiday season has been a lot busier than the last few, I couldn't pass up doing some holiday baking over the weekend.

Festive Fudge Cookies - super easy holiday recipe on my blog today

Before I started sewing, baking was my hobby of choice. My mother taught me to bake as a little girl, and it's something I've always enjoyed - in large part due to the yumminess that baking yields! I've baked less and less over the last few years, especially this past year as I've been working on eating healthier and losing weight. Christmas baking is different, though, and I don't see myself ever giving that up. On the bright side, I've noticed that I've eaten far fewer cookies thus far than in years past, so I guess I've learned something this year in my quest for healthier eating!

Nothing like some good old-fashioned child labor!

I wanted to share the easiest holiday cookie recipe that I make - something I call Festive Fudge Cookies. I've made them since the kiddo was a teeny tiny baby, and they're insanely easy to put together. I've made several different varieties, some with Andes mints in the center, some with plain Hershey kisses in the center (for chocolate lovers like me), some with Hugs in the center, and some with the candy cane Hugs. They all taste wonderful, but the Hugs make them look awfully cute, and when you're giving holiday cookies, I like to think you get bonus points for cuteness, so I like to use them.

Festive Fudge Cookies - recipe on the blog!

Festive Fudge Cookies
makes about 60-80 cookies

1/3 cup butter
6 oz unsweetened chocolate squares
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 pouch/box sugar cookie mix, 17.5 oz
60-80 Hugs, kisses, or mix, unwrapped

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave, for about one minute, and stir until smooth.
2. Stir in condensed milk. Stir in the cookie mix. This will take some effort, as the dough will get quite thick. Use a wooden spoon or firm spoonula for this step.
3. Shape and roll dough into 1/2" balls. Place on a cookie step about 1" apart. The cookies do not spread much while baking.
4. Bake for 6 minutes. When you take the cookies out of the oven, immediately press 1 candy into the center of each cookie. Let the cookies sit on the hot cookie sheet for about 3 minutes, then gently push the candy down, to spread the candy across the top of the cookie. Wait another 3 minutes, then squish the top of the candy to flatten the candy.
5. Let cookies cool thoroughly before storing. I like to place mine on an unused cookie sheet and pale it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before storing, to solidify the candy.

Note: I usually make a lot of cookie dough in advance this time of year, freezing it until I'm ready to make the cookies. I don't recommend that with this recipe, it takes a crazy amount of time to thaw and is positively unusable while frozen.

Happy Wednesday to you all! Have a great day :)
Monday, December 16, 2013

Welcome home, Juki!

Last Thursday morning, I got the call I'd been waiting two weeks for - my Juki was ready to come home from the repair shop! Yay!! I hustled over to the shop in loads of holiday shopping traffic, not even minding the traffic a bit for once, knowing that I was on a very important errand.

I brought her home, promptly set her back up in her table, and then set about to hunt through my photo collection to try to figure out where I went wrong with her. My Juki went to the shop right before Thanksgiving after I finished up a deadline project where I felt like I had to fight for every inch I finished of the project. I knew something was wrong, but I also knew I had a deadline I had to meet, so I tried to put on my best Tim Gunn to just make it work. I assumed I had a timing issue or maybe something had been knocked loose somewhere because it seemed awfully noisy. Don't get me wrong, this is a semi-industrial machine and it's pretty noisy on a good day, but something sounded different. And I was right - the needle plate was pretty badly damaged - dented and dinged as if the needle had been hitting it over and over.

This is not what a needle plate should look like - the repairman marked it up with the nail polish to draw attention to the needle hole, where the damage is
The damage is at the needle hole itself - you can see that portion of the plate is dented and the hole has clearly been struck many times! Yikes! The repairman added the red nail polish (NOT blood!) to draw my attention to where the damage was.

As soon as they told me that, I started to wonder if this was something I did to my poor machine or if perhaps I didn't notice that kind of damage when I bought it secondhand. When I first bought it, I fully intended to bring it in for service, just to give a good once-over before I put it to use, but I couldn't help myself - I started using it, and then I couldn't stop!

New needle plate all loaded up and ready to sew with!
Brand new needle plate all ready to sew with!

So, after hunting through my photos to see if perhaps I had a photo that showed me what the needle plate looked like when I first bought it, and finding photos where that needle hole is just out of focus, I've decided I needed to stop worrying about who caused the problem. What I do need to do is pay attention. If something sounds wrong, stop sewing. Take it in for service if I can't discern the problem on my own. Thankfully, I seem to have found a good repair shop, they were a pleasure to work with, but I'm hoping I won't have to see them again until it's time for a little yearly service.

A stack for a Lucky Stars mini for the foundation paper piecing class I'll be teaching at the Minnesota Quilt Show this summer!

Now that the Juki is back, I've got a laundry list of projects, from Christmas presents to class samples and other deadlines that I've got to get cracking on. And I'm just three squares away from finishing my Christmas cross-stitch project, so I'm hoping that there will be some finishes, or at least some fun progress, to share over the next few weeks! Happy Monday to you all!

Another stack I made while the machine was in the shop
Monday, December 9, 2013

Getting my cross-stitch on

My Juki has an official diagnosis from the repair shop - it has a badly damaged needle plate. I'm thinking this may have always been the issue since I bought it second-hand and it's always sounded a bit noisy, but it's hard to know for sure. Naturally, the needle plate isn't a part they typically stock, so it's going to be a little while yet before my machine comes home :( I've been sorting and folding fabric instead of sewing with it, and cross-stitching my little heart out, and I'm starting to see the light at end of the sampler tunnel!

Christmas Sampler progress!

My Kawaii Christmas cross-stitch sampler is coming together nicely while I'm without my machine, although if you compare my stitches with the chart, there's definitely some blips where I've made mistakes. For example, that red present with the cream box on number 13 was supposed to be a blue polka dotted present, but my inability to follow a pattern reared its ugly head there and it turned into a red present. But I'm not too worried about those little "design choices" - they give it character, right? Ha!

May not be totally perfect, but I'm okay with that!

I've found a new method of stitching that's been working pretty well for me. When I have some quiet stitching time to myself, I follow the chart and stitch half of my X's, then when I'm stitching while watching TV or multi-tasking in some other way, I finish off those X's so I don't have to pay attention to the chart then. It's working out pretty nicely for me.

My next hand-stitching project after my Christmas sampler!

At this rate, I feel sure that I'm going to wrap up this sampler before Christmas. Yay! But then I'll have to start another hand stitching project, and I happened to pick up the perfect one during the Black Friday sales from Pink Chalk Fabrics...the new Studio Stitches pattern from Empty Bobbin. I am SO excited to embroider one of those adorable sewing machines!

Have a great day :)
Friday, December 6, 2013

A few of my favorite things...

I've really missed watching the yearly airing of "The Sound of Music" the last several holiday seasons. Either it hasn't been on, or I've just been missing it! In any case, I was really excited to watch the new production of "The Sound of Music" last night on NBC. I'm a sucker for a musical, having grown up in musical theater, and "The Sound of Music" is one of those classics that I can't resist. I enjoyed watching the new production - I'm not a huge country music fan, but I thought Carrie Underwood did a fine job, though she's no Julie Andrews, and she managed to nail one of my favorite songs from the show, "My Favorite Things." Humming that song while brushing my teeth last night, it dawned on me that this is the perfect time of year to jot down a few of my favorite things, just in case Santa needs a few ideas for quilty items to stick in my stocking or under the tree...

Creative Grids rulers - one of my favorite things

Creative Grids rulers - You really can't go wrong with these rulers. They grip your fabric so nicely, and the lines are really crisp. I sure would love to get a 6 1/2" Quilting Ruler, as I have most of the larger square sizes and I already have my most favorite ruler size, the 6 1/2" x 24 1/2".

Aurifil - one of my favorite things

Aurifil - Santa, every quilter needs some Aurifil in her life! I'm a huge fan of the 50 wt (orange cone) for pretty much all things quilty. It would be fun to get a few fun colors of thread in one's stocking!

Graph paper notebooks - one of my favorite things

Graph paper - While I love using EQ, I do still love graph paper, and graph paper notebooks are a lot of fun to have around for doodling.

Extra wound bobbins - one of my favorite things

Extra bobbins - I've been meaning to buy some extra bobbins for my Juki since I bought the darned thing, and I keep forgetting, so they sure would be nice.

505 Basting Spray - one of my favorite things

505 Basting Spray - Can't live without this stuff. I actually tried to pin baste a quilt earlier this year, because I was low on spray, thinking it couldn't be that bad and that surely I could do it. Um, no. I gave up and went out and bought a can of spray baste!

Seam Fix seam ripper - one of my favorite things

Seam Fix - I love a good seam ripper, and I think I've found my most favorite one to date, the Seam Fix . It's a seam ripper that has a bit of an eraser-like feature to it, to help grab all those tiny fiddly pieces of thread that you leave behind when you rip out a seam. It's fantastic, but seam rippers don't last forever, Santa. Plus, you know how prone I am to losing things! A backup would be good.

Heat Press batting tape - one of my favorite things
Batting Tape - Santa, you've seen me baste quilts - there's always leftover batting, right? I love using batting tape to fuse leftover chunks together into a big piece of Franken-batting! This stuff comes on a pretty big roll, but it goes quickly, so an extra roll or two would be handy. Just steer clear of the black rolls, because I've never used black batting, okay?

Tell me, friends, what are some of your favorite small quilty things? Are there any notions that you just cannot live without that you love to tell others about? When I teach, talking about notions is one of my favorite things to do after class, to compare notes and to learn about other notions I might never have tried otherwise, like that Seam Fix seam ripper.  And don't forget, today is the last day of the 2013/2014 combo deal for the Lucky Stars BOM!! I hope you have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend!
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Last week before Thanksgiving, I decided to take my Juki into the shop. Couple the lack of sew-jo I've been feeling lately with the spring that mysteriously popped out whilst FMQ'ing recently, I figured she was due for a nice tune-up. I just got the call that it's going to another week before I see her again, thanks to a badly damaged needle plate. No idea what I did to the needle plate - or if it was even from me, maybe it was from the previous owner and I just didn't notice? - but it needs to be replaced, stat. Yikes. I sure hope the part comes quickly.

Something's missing from my sewing room :(

It's true what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder. This whole week that I've been without my machine, I've been missing it terribly. I even got out my old Husqvarna Viking in an attempt to sew something, only to get frustrated with how slow the darned thing is and give up. I think my sew-jo is trying to come back, bit by bit.

Christmas Cross Stitch Progress!

I've been spending my evenings on the couch, enjoying the light of the Christmas tree, and working on my Christmas cross-stitch sampler from last year that I never finished. I'm making good progress this year. It's really nice to unwind with a little cross-stitch at the end of the day. I'd forgotten how enjoyable it can be. With just another 20 and a 1/2 days until Christmas, it's entirely possible I might just finish this sampler before Santa makes an appearance! Happy Wednesday to you :)
Monday, December 2, 2013

Lucky Stars December 2013 Block: The Encore Star - and a Cyber Monday deal!

It's hard for me to believe that my Lucky Stars BOM has officially come full circle, having started last December. The final block of the 2013 club went out to members yesterday, and it might just be my favorite of the bunch.

December 2013 Lucky Stars Block of the Month: The Encore Star

The Encore Star is another star within a star, with several different triangles swirling around the star. I think one of the reasons it's one of my faves is because of the mix of coral and navy within the block. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite color combinations! I also love that soft gray herringbone print from Willow that I used for the background, it's fantastic for a low volume background.

2013 Lucky Stars BOM blocks - all together

I'm excited to start putting together a few layout options for this year's quilt, which will be sent to all 2013 subscribers in a few weeks. My Juki is off at the sewing machine spa at the moment, getting pampered and tuned up nicely, so I'm looking forward to getting it back and sewing up my quilt top soon.

If you haven't joined in the fun for the 2014 Lucky Stars BOM, sign-ups are still open, and I've extended the 2013/2014 club subscription deal through the end of this week. For just $25, you get 26 different star patterns, each provided in two different sizes for a total of 52 templates. Talk about a deal! I'm also running a special today for Cyber Monday today only at my Pattern Shop - purchase a signed copy of my book, Becoming a Confident Quilter, and select one of my PDF patterns for free! To sneak a peek at more of the quilts from the book, you can check out the Flickr group right here. Add the PDF quilt pattern of your choice to your cart and enter code CYBER2013 upon checkout to get the deal. Happy shopping everyone and have a great day :)

Becoming a Confident Quilter - my book, due out September 2013

Welcome! I'm Elizabeth, mom to a mood teen boy and a chatty six-year-old girl and I sew for my sanity. Let's get to quilting, shall we?
The Epic Sampler BOM Club kicks off Oct 1st
Copyright 2010 by Elizabeth Dackson. Powered by Blogger.

Search This Blog



 photo Icicle-Star_zps7f032133.gif  photo Boxed-In2_zps800ae9da.gif EasyPeasyFauxZigZag StringHeartBlock StarCrossed CrossMAze CathedralStar RainbowRing DoubleFlip PatchworkWheel FriendshipOctogon FlyingGeese HST Weathervane MarinersStar StackedScrappyBlock ScrappyAngles HolidayPresentBlock DivideandConquer CharlestonFarmhouse ModernHalves ModCircuitry ModNine Kaleido SlicedCoins Kaleido BellaCrossing SweetGirlie MiniBookshelf ClamshellLoop DoubleHourglass BaptistFan TetrisMug StringDiamond ScraptasticTote OffsetDiamonds MunchkinSoftBook PatchworkBathMat