Monday, May 23, 2016

Sewing Retreat Anyone?


Debbie Cook, this picture is for you. I've posted it before but it's still cute!

I disappear from my sewing blog for well over a year, enjoy next to no sewing, and I start back with this? A sewing retreat?

Before I get to the point of this post I'll fill you in with what we've been up to. I realize I don't have a hugely popular blog but for those of you who've been kind enough to follow, here goes:

Hans and I left our Florida Marina (we live on a sailboat) in January of 2015. We managed to get to the Dry Tortuga's (not the most comfortable sail and I'm glad that's off Hans' bucket list) and the Bahamas (some of the worst weather seen in 30 years. Leave it to us!). We were gone for six months but it seemed like a lot longer. Life on a boat can be pretty interesting.

Looking back, even though we spent way more money than we had expected, I'm glad we did it because it would not have happened this year, or maybe ever. My dad's health started to decline last summer, so upon returning from the Bahamas we put the boat on the hard and came back to Pennsylvania. I ended up back at my old waitress job and since the inn needed a piano player, I volunteered Hans for the position. We only intended to stay for a couple of months, but ended up staying all the way through to New Year's Eve.

The Inn. Built in 1885. Look at that porch.

Enjoying a break in our room. We actually lived at the inn for a memorable six weeks!

In January 2016, back to Florida and the boat we went. But before we knew it, we were putting the boat right back on the hard as my dad died in March and we came back to Pennsylvania to see if my mom might need some help. Hans and I are back working at the inn and this morning I woke up and had an epiphany. I said to myself, "Duh! Why not suggest a sewing retreat at the inn to my bloggy friends!" I guess it's just a case of living too close to it to realize how perfect it is. There are already a few groups of ladies who come to the inn: rug hookers, quilters, and this week we have cross stitchers.

The inn has 74 rooms for rent along with a variety of rooms that can double as sewing areas. There are hospitality suites, adjoining rooms, single rooms etc... We are an historic inn built in 1885, located in western Pensylvania, and we're a couple of hours from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo... It's truly an unexpected gem in a rural setting. Within close driving distance there are antique stores, a pottery, wineries, a micro brewery, many golf courses, and within walking distance is the best damn consignment/thrift store ever!

But please understand, I don't get anything for this! I'm not a saleswoman and there is no commission. I just think you'd love this place. (Psst, depending on dates, I could probably get you a discount).

If anyone is interested just send me an email at laurao43 at hotmail dot com and I'll send you a link to the inn. I don't want to blast the name of it here and risk having weirdos contacting them.

As for Hans and I, we plan on getting back to the Knotty Cat in January.

Wilbur had his own bed but he still slept with us!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

More 'sea-ing' than 'sew-ing'


At Cabbage Key

Hans and I have cast off our dock lines and are cruising again.

We left St. Petersburg in January and are currently moored in Key West where we hope to leave in a day or two for the Dry Tortuga's. I don't know why but I'm a bit nervous about this next jaunt.

I did get a bit of sewing done before we left, especially when Hans stated just days before departure that maybe we should re-cover our cockpit cushions. Personally, I would rather sail with crappy cushions that I don't have to worry about getting dirty. But, these cushions were starting to 'shed' sand-like crap all over the place. I ended up making very simple envelope style covers for the easiest cushions but that's as far as I got. The remaining two will need to be 'fitted' and that probably won't happen for a very long time. I don't sew at anchor and when we are lucky enough to be at a dock with shore power, we have to do laundry, vaccum, take advantage of endless water to scrub the boat, provision, blahblahblah, which leaves no time for fun.

I also have a sailing blog for anyone who's interested in that lifestyle. Needless to say a lot more gets written there than here.

I may not be sewing much but I still very much enjoy reading everyone else's blogs about their projects.


Our chilly little pit during a cold spell. I made his coat out of left over fleece.

A bag I made from recycled sail cloth.

Another one

And yet one more.

Boring cushions but they do serve a purpose.


At a marina in Marathon. I enjoyed this for a few seconds before I had to get a butt load of chores done.

We hope to cruise until at least June. We have to be back for my son's wedding in July and we will have a lot of figuring out about what we're doing after that.


But for now, we're sailing Mon!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Finally, Fall is Here! And I Finished my Quilt. No Kidding!

It appears summer is finally releasing its hold on the south and we are now a week free of having the air conditioner running in our salon. It can still get pretty warm inside but the evenings have been pretty nice.

Since we used a bigger air conditioner this year as opposed to the last two years I was able to actually accomplish some summer sewing.

Some. Just not a lot.

Last year we finally replaced our tired and very old (nearly 18 yrs) main sail and I made sure that our old main sail came back to us as I really hoped to make some bags out of it. Well, we got it back all right and after letting it stew in its own juices for a few months (all folded up in a tight, hot mess) I, all of a sudden, decided I needed to get started on those bags.

It took me two whole days to get one hunk of sail cloth clean enough to even consider sewing. Mold, mildew, and filth hardly describe the mess I discovered upon unfolding our main and I nearly wore my arm out with scrubbing before finally giving in and adding bleach to my repertoire.

The guy that ordered this uses it for his volleyball evenings. It holds beer, snacks, garbage bags, etc... He calls it his 'chick bag'.

All of my sail bags have 6 internal pockets along with a secure velcro pocket.


This was an anniversary gift for a surprised wife.

A fellow live-aboard gentleman and I had a talk about what motif we should put on his bag. After many ideas (I swear men will forever be trapped in a 10 year old mentality) I persuaded him to let me do my own thing. I came up with this. It's entirely up to discussion.

And here is the finished quilt I started this past spring. I so need to get this in the mail.



And for the next baby quilt on the block, it's called Applejack!


A couple of finished squares.


For this new project I'm using a 'Quilt as you Go' method. So far I really like it. It makes sewing a quilt in a small area a very enjoyable experience.


I've been really zipping along on this and I have such high hopes for it! I'm keeping my fingers crossed. But in the meantime, I received an order for another sail bag.

Good Times.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pretty little dog collars all in a row


I do love bright colors

My ever present critic

Actually he just can't stand not being involved in everything


We installed an 8,000 BTU air conditioner on top of the salon area on our boat and for the first time since we've been living in Florida I can finally sew on the boat in comfort during the summer. The 5,000 BTU unit just couldn't keep up.


I still have that darned baby quilt to finish and I really need to get serious about making new cockpit cushions but luckily I can get these collars out the door pretty quickly.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Back in Steamy Florida

We really lucked out with our visit to Maine last week. I'd checked the weather forecast before going and rain was predicted nearly everyday. Instead, we enjoyed sunshine except for one evening when we sat on our balcony and watched a misty rain shower roll across Frenchman's Bay. So different from a rain shower here in Florida where the sky just opens up and dumps gallons of water on you and everything gets soaked before you even have a chance to close all the hatches.

We drove past this fabric store on our way into Bar Harbor.

I got such a kick out of seeing that sign so needless to say we stopped for a visit on our way back to the airport. In addition to tons of quilting fabrics she also had a lot of notions and patterns. If I lived there I know where I'd be spending quite a bit of time and money.

I had to buy something to remember my visit and I thought this was cute.


Back to reality. We arrived in Florida at nearly midnight and the next day we had to move the boat back to the marina (we had it worked on while we were gone). But first we had to move our holding tank* back into place since it had of course been sitting right where the mechanics needed to work. Getting it out was no picnic (I nearly puked while rinsing it out) but luckily getting it back in was easier. However, attaching the hoses to it involved a heat gun, and added to the fact that this took place in the engine room...

* For those of you who don't know what a holding tank is; it's basically a septic tank. Everyone gets pumped out once a week at the marina and believe me you don't want to be downwind of the pump-out cart that day.

This was after I crawled out of the engine room where I'd finished re-attaching the hoses to our head. Pure sweat!



We also picked Wilbur up from Doggy Day Care where he received a glowing report card. He was part of the Wild Child group; got an A for completing his bath, nail clipping, and ear cleaning with no problems, played well with others, and is a Teacher's Pet. He may be a red-nose pit but apparently he's also a brown noser!

Our watch dog keeping one eye open.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Hot Florida to Chilly Maine in One Day


And no, we didn't sail our boat here. The other day I told someone we were heading to Maine but we'd be back next week and they actually thought we were taking the boat. Believe me, if I told someone we'd be sailing to Maine I'd be telling them we'll be back next year. That would be no small trip.

But now that I've been here a couple of days I'd sail here in a heartbeat if I could. I absolutely love Maine and I think I only took one breath of air when I told Hans I could live here. I know everyone loves Florida but even though we've been living there for almost 3 years I do not feel at home and I know I never will.


This is a sand bar that stretches across Frenchman's Bay to a small island. You can cross at low tide which gives you about 4 hours to explore.

On our small balcony with a glass of wine. We have a view of the bay from our room.

4 fat quarters with a nautical theme.

While Hans was working I walked around town and found a small quilt store. I know I can find quilt fabric anywhere but I wanted something I knew came from my trip to Maine.


We head back home on Friday but before we get to the airport I'm stopping at a store we drove past on the way to our hotel. I got a kick out of it's name and after we visit there I'll tell you about it.


In the meantime I never thought I'd love having to wear a winter coat in May. There must be something in the air here.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Finished Quilt Top



As most of my sewing projects go, this one was no different. Which means I started out with an idea and good intentions, but ended up with something else entirely.

My original plan was to sew my jelly roll (remember my jelly roll consists of 40 2 1/2 inch by 44 inch strips) into groups of 6, cut them into 12 inch blocks and then arrange them into a log cabin type of pattern.


Unfortunately, even though I was very careful and tried to keep my seam allowances the same, my strips did not come out exact. When I tried to arrange them into blocks it was obvious that some of them were off by as much as a quarter of an inch and more. I would have to stretch some blocks and scrunch others. Well, crap!

So I decided to whack the blocks into strips, stagger them, re-sew them, and cut the finished product into 12 1/2 by 10 inch rectangles. It was time consuming, the result is a bit crazy and needless to say nothing matches up.

Which for once was what I wanted.


How it started out. Simple strips of 6.

How it ended up (before I added the border). Crazy!

The jelly roll came with strips of polka dots in four different colors. I used 4 of them for the border. The length of the quilt was a bit too long so I had to piece the corners with a coordinating fabric.

It's difficult to see the whole thing (and yes, I know our cockpit cushions are on their last legs. The Florida sun has done them in).


My biggest challenge was finding a place big enough to spread it out so I could decide what to do about the border. Then I had a brilliant idea (something that doesn't happen very often) and took it to my Zumba class. It's a huge building so I showed up a half hour early and was able to lay it down and not have to step all over it while figuring things out. I'm glad I did because what I thought I might like; I didn't.

I kept it simple with my polka dot prints and was able to sew it together yesterday. Now all that's left is to buy some batting, quilt it, and bind it.

I'm still up in the air about the quilting. I should probably pay someone to do it, but it's a baby quilt! I mean It's gonna get puked and pooped on for crying out loud. I don't feel like hand quilting it and I don't want to tie yarn knots through it because those usually end up turning into holes. I guess I'll probably try to do free motion with my machine and just keep the stitches simple.


Wilbur the inspector asks, "What the hell happened?"

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hoppy Easter!!


This week I discovered I have the biggest refrigerator, the biggest oven, and apparently the biggest mouth here in our marina because for today's Easter get together I'm in charge of cooking the 12 pound ham.


Maybe I should have mentioned with that big mouth that I've never cooked a ham in my life.


That little heart sticker on Wilbur's head signifies he was a good boy and took his heart worm medicine.



Wilbur thinks I'm a fabulous cook and has volunteered to be the official taste tester. As long as it's covered in whipped creme, he says, life is good.





Sunday, April 13, 2014

The search for the ever elusive scant 1/4 inch continues



We pick up this story with my continued quest of trying to find out how to accurately sew quilt pieces together.

After sewing my pre-cut jelly roll strips together I was looking forward to cutting them into 12 inch squares. That is until I realized the new blade I'd put in my rotary cutter a couple of months ago was rusty. I would have had better luck running a dull butter knife up and down my fabric it was that bad. This is what comes from living on the water in Florida; if things don't get moldy they get rusty.

So off I ventured to my favorite fabric store, and for the first time they didn't have something I needed. I have a Fiskars Cutter and they don't carry them. I couldn't get to JoAnn's because I didn't have the vehicle that day so I had to wait until yesterday to drive there. Luckily I had a 40% off coupon and bought some titanium blades (I have no idea if they'll stay nice or not and I need to come up with a better storing solution). But then I remembered they sell Janome Sewing Machines at this store and I asked one of the employees who was sitting at a machine if they happened to carry a quarter inch quilting foot and by golly they do! I then asked her if she'd heard the term 'scant' quarter inch and she gave me a baffled look and shook her head. So I went into my long winded explanation of why I wanted one and she said she's made many quilts using a simple quarter inch seam allowance and never had a problem.

That's when I decided enough was enough and to quit making such a big deal out of this and just suck it up. I ended up buying the foot they had in stock and it also came with 2 guides; one for the 1/4 inch seam and one for sewing in the ditch (actually the guide runs in the ditch and allows you to sew very close to it).

This is the foot with the 1/4 inch guide attached. The other guide is off to the left.


I did not have my reading glasses with me and I didn't see this until I got home. Is that not just too funny?

So the search for the scant quarter inch foot and guide is now over.

The sad part about this is when my quilt ends up with wonky seams I won't have anyone to blame but myself.


No sewing this weekend as Hans and I cast off our dock lines yesterday and anchored in the bay for the night. This little racer zipped past our stern with about 6 'scant' inches to spare.

I crack myself up!



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Some small steps on my baby quilt.

First of all, let me express my thanks to those who welcomed me back from my bloggy absence. It really surprised me and also made my day. Oh, you are so going to wish you'd never encouraged me!
So I started sewing the baby quilt I mentioned yesterday. I sorted out the strips and then sewed them together in groups of 6. Each group of strips will then be cut into three 12 inch squares.
But here's my dilemma; Is it just assumed that everyone knows the secret of the 'scant' quarter inch seam allowance? I'm not a quilter but I do have a couple of quilting books and I've also read and watched a lot of tutorials, yet not one of them mentioned this term. I can't remember when I first heard about it but I did know upon starting this quilt that I should follow the rule. I know you can buy a special foot for your machine but apparently it isn't always accurate. Then I heard that the line spacing on index cards is measured at pretty much a 'scant' quarter inch. So of course I bought a batch of them at my local Winn-Dixie.
It would appear that my teflon foot is the closest thing to what I need (yet still not quite right), so I measured as best I could from the needle and taped a hunk of memo pad to the bed of my machine as a guide. This much I know; 6 strips of sewn together fabric should measure 12 1/2 inches across. Mine are pretty close yet not necessarily exact and that pisses me off. And the individual strips after having been sewn should come in at 2 inches (except for the two outside pieces that still have unsewn seam allowances). I'm sewing as carefully as I can but I can't help but wonder if the fact that the quality of some of the fabrics is different from the others might be the problem. The lighter colored fabrics are much lighter in weight than the darker ones.
I swear, only I can find a way to make something so simple, so complicated. But regardless of these minuscule discrepancies, I'm going to continue to charge forth. After all, this is for a baby whom I expect will puke, poop, and do God knows what else to it, so who cares if it's not perfect.

One set of strips. Remember these came pre-cut and some of the prints aren't exactly centered.

Three sets hanging on my clothes line (Wilbur's retractable leash).

Now that Wilbur's an adolescent, I don't dare leave my camera lying around. Here he tweets yet one more selfie.


The weather these last few days has been wonderfully cool and perfect for sewing. Tomorrow I plan on cutting these strips into squares and then trying to come up with a good layout.

I also need to find a way to keep my iron from spitting rusty stains up all over everything.