Friday, March 30, 2012

A Moon Lit Night

This was the sky the other night when the moon, Venus, and Jupiter were visible in the night sky. 
,This first photo is undoctored; the moon is the largest and the brightest, then looking to the southeast is Venus, and still lower to the horizon but still visible is Jupiter.  Remember, if you click on the photo it will enlarge, and you'll have a better look at Jupiter.  The second photograph which is at the bottom of this entry is the doctored one, and it is fun!  I really like the colors and the aura around the moon.

That aura should give all of us ideas for our quilts, paintings, and any art in which we dabble.  It's given me several ideas for further embellishing "Music of the Night" as well as designs for embroidery for the crazy quilt. 

Of course, the most obvious comparison between that doctored photo and anything else is between the photograph and the paintings of Van Gogh.  Some time ago I read an article that suggested Van Gogh painted as he did (the auras around objects in his paintings) because of a medical condition.  Naturally, I can't remember the specifics and can only think of migraines, but I don't think that was it.  Whatever it was, if indeed he suffered from that condition, it caused him to paint marvelous images for us. 

Although the second photograph was artificially enhanced (I get so excited when I see glories in the night skies, I forget to set my camera properly and have to fuss with them later), it is still worth seeing because now you can really see not only the moon and planets but also some of the stars that were also very bright that night.  It also reminds me of the poets who spoke about the "music of the spheres" which had as much to do with math as with music. Rather than math, I prefer to focus on music. Can't you hear some of your favorite music when you look at this photo?

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Every now and then the title of this blog seems like a reproach.  There haven't been very many tales about quilting lately.  My problem writing up a pattern (that is finally coming to an end) doesn't count as it's only sewing related not actually sewing.  My machine hasn't seen me for any period of time except for the odd binding or three but nothing really creative.  Next week I have Crazy Quilt class, and I haven't done any work on the block with my mother's photograph since I posted it. 

My time has become more busy with classes and hand-sewing to make samples for classes than it should be as my family has pointed out.  This past month has proved that to me so I do plan to scale back .  However, I don't think that's the only reason I'm not sewing.  It may actually be the touch of warm spring weather we've enjoyed for a little while.  I've spent quite a bit of time on weeding out old things, going through the bookshelves (really looking for more room), tearing out pages from old quilt magazine to put in my binder (they've actually made it into the binder, too), and looking outdoors wondering what the garden will be like this year.  There's a lot to do in the house; winter-time clutter abounds and must be taken care of.  The basement remains a disaster (it was supposed to be my winter project).  All these should-do and should-have-done's make me feel I haven't earned the right to throw myself into another big project on my machine.

Guess I'll have to spend some time once the pattern is truly finished doing a major project for the house's sake.  Then maybe I'll feel I deserve to have some time with fabrics, thread, and my sewing machine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have you seen . . . ?

In between dashing hither and thither pretending I was accomplishing something momentous, out of the corner of my eye I happened to see this:  Forsythia is a plant that when in bloom makes one's heart glad.  That bright, cheerful yellow shouts, "Spring!"  Last week I had gathered these branches, and oh, am I glad I did!   One can't tame the branches of this shrub so they are reaching out from the window enclosure trying to spread their happiness to every area of the house.  What could be more uplifting?

Then, last night David called me out to our back yard so I could see the incredible night sky.  Not only could we see the moon, Venus, and Jupiter, but we could also see a spangling of stars and constellations.  It was so clear that even with our light pollution the sky was a vibrant showcase full of beauty.  Again, the Byron poem that was one of my adolescent favorites (and obviously, still is) ran through my head:

 She walks in beauty like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that's best of dark and light 
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.

As always, forgive me if my memory isn't completely accurate; it is memory after all.  That night sky reminded me of the poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats and painters like Klimt, Rossetti, and Whistler. 

The beauty in days like yesterday is intoxicating.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gone Fishing . . .


We are going to be busy with our daughter and her family for a couple of days (think long weekend) so I probably won't be dashing upstairs to write and post an entry.  This is a time of birthdays so it will be festive and happy.  I hope you all have a restful time with some exciting moments thrown in to give you a happy-to-be-alive kind of weekend .

I'll be back on line sometime early next week.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Design for a Living?

Have you ever thought of making your living as a designer?  I haven't.  Even when I entered that contest last year, designing quilt patterns as a means of making extra money was never a goal.  Trust me, you don't want to, either.  It's hard work!

Every time I have to write up a pattern for some piece that I've created, I promise myself that I won't do it again.  Yes, I suppose it becomes easier the more one does it, and if one has the correct software, I think it may be even easier.  Technology and experience may be a help, but I still think the most dedicated designer would admit that at times a pattern seems to be more trouble than it's worth.

In one way, I view pattern writing like writing a lesson plan.  After all, the two things do share some similarities.  First one has to write the goal - what body of knowledge do you want a student to master?  Then you have to set objectives; how will a student demonstrate that she understands key concepts or can perform key tasks?  This is followed by writing the activities that will take place and will lead the student to achieving the objectives, etc.  Having spent a good number of years doing that, it's usually not a huge problem.  Usually.

Today, I spent a good portion of the day struggling with writing the cutting directions for "Miss Ruby".  Whew, I had no idea that simple little wall hanging was so complex!  Not difficult, mind you, just . . . well, involved.  Almost every block is different.  Either the blocks calls for different fabrics or the pattern is different from the previous.  There are only 24 blocks, but the cutting may take more time and patience than the sewing!  Obviously when I made it, I didn't cut it all in one day.  That was in part because, while I had the pattern drawn, I was constantly fine-tuning either my color choices or the variations-on-a-theme required by the contest. 

Designing is the easy part.  Writing a pattern is tedious in the extreme, and I know I'd hire a pattern writer if I had to do this very often.  My hat is off to those who make a living at turning out patterns! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


For my own sake, I am posting the first and the third photos of this particular painting. I was curious to see what the differences are (another great reason to continue "blogging") and if I like the direction in which I'm going. So here is the first rendition from  day 1  followed by the third day (yesterday - no jury duty for the rest of the week, I'm officially excused, huzzah!). 

Well, they are more different than I thought.  This is a good thing for me to see.  While at painting yesterday, I wondered if three days of working on this scene was going to show, or if I was only spinning my wheels.  Now I can see that I have come farther than I thought.  There are, as usual, areas that I like, and there are places that need work.   First, I am glad to have the buildings that are nestled in at the far end of the lake even though the colors are too bright for the distance.  Those cabins are also too large; in actuality one can barely see them.  However, I think I will leave them on the large side because I do want them visible for this composition.  The mountain on the left (with the cliff face) is beginning to show real signs of promise even though I have taken liberties with the color of the rock.  It is more stone-like, grayish, than the shades of brown I've used (to give a sense of reflected light).

But . . . the shore line still needs attention as does that small outcropping of rock on the far left near the water's edge.  The most distant hill on the right is too high, but I won't know if that needs to be changed until the sky is finished.  And that's the big one, isn't it?  The sky has to be finished.  Today I hope to find time for some studies on canvas paper that will give me both a better idea of how to accomplish what I want to do and give me practice in doing it. 

By the way, I have already used the brush with this painting.  While I am learning that there are times I need to use both tools, I am also learning when those times are.  It's like knowing when to use a quilting needle and when to use a sharp, isn't it? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Busy Day

Monday was a long day for us.  It began with a computer expert coming in to set up our old computer (the one that makes a noise like a person with a horrible cold snoring and 53 wires).  We asked for help because although I could attach the wires and have most of them in the correct place, it seemed wise to have someone who really knows what he is doing attend to the affair.  He also hooked everything up so D can have Internet, also, as well as his own printer.  My attempts to copy our files had been unsuccessful so computer man did that, too.  And it wasn't at all stressful (interpretation: David and I didn't bite each other's nose off ).

Then D had to take our car for its every-so-often check-up while Mary Ellen and I went to pick up quilts at the quilter's.  She and I had the better time, I know.  The quilts she had done were spectacular and quilted in a manner designed to enhance her work.  My wall hanging with the spools that I showed you before is another awesome piece of quilter's art.  It helps so much to have someone who understands how to enhance with stitching not merely cover a quilt with it!  Of course, it helps to have a quilter who also has a sense of what the piecer likes.

Home before D, I got myself involved in tidying areas that had surfaced in the reorganization of the computer room.  Now that is a job and then some!  You see, like many craft/art enthusiasts, I tend to have both a lot of books and an equally large number of magazines on my passions.  Having more than one enthusiasm doesn't help too much, either.  I spent a lot of time looking through items, sorting into piles, and re-shelving, throwing away, and leaving out for a second look.  In among all those books and magazines were also children's books (which of course, I had to read) and all sorts of other equally interesting things that shouldn't have been where they were but had to be carefully assessed and then appropriately disposed of.  Basically, it took me quite a bit longer than it should have, and I'm not finished, yet.

When D returned with the healthy car, we went out to pick up a few cords and wires for the computers (they needed more, can you believe that?), and had a bite to eat.   He had to go to a meeting so I spent the rest of the evening going through more magazines, tearing out articles to put in binders, and watching a little T.V. 

Ah well, the recycle bin is full, and I feel as though I accomplished something yesterday even though the sorting and throwing away is not finished.  On top of that feeling of accomplishment,  I don't have to report for jury duty today either, and I can go to painting.

Happy, happy first day of spring!

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Bit of This, A Bit of That

Over the weekend during the incredible weather we've been having, David took me around to the front yard and pointed out some remarkably lovely little species iris that were in bloom.  They are small so unless you get right down on their level (or take a close-up photo), you'd never appreciate their beauty.  The problem with this photo is there is no reference (like my foot beside the flowers) so you can see how little these flowers are.  They certainly don't compare to the ones we're used to seeing in our gardens, the tall-bearded iris.

Here's a close up so you can see the markings better.  If I were to paint a picture of these, people would say, "Oh what an imagination she has; just look at those impossible colors!"  Well, maybe one person would say that.  If you know flowers, you wouldn't say it.

It's been a busy weekend.  D spent most of his time working in the yard doing the spring clean-up (we do know what the date is, right?).  Then both Saturday and Sunday, he spent quite a bit of time working on taking his bonsai out of winter storage and/or repotting them.  Seeing him do that made me very happy.  He took lessons with our local bonsai expert last year, and this is proof that he feels both competent and confident enough to get his hands dirty.  That's a terrible pun that I didn't intend; it just happened.

Most of my time was spent inside doing the houseworky things one does and preparing for the class I taught on Sunday (hand-piecing tumbling blocks/baby blocks).  That meant that I didn't have time to paint after all.  Today we have a workman coming to the house so that will take up my morning.   There's a trip to the quilter in the late morning/early afternoon to pick up the spools quilt and house cleaning later on so painting tomorrow is out.  It's all the more disappointing as I am on jury duty this week and therefore can't really count on a regular schedule at all.  I have my fingers crossed that I won't miss painting tomorrow, but I'm lucky I don't have to report today so I won't whine if it happens.

Over the weekend I received a letter from Daniel, the brother closest to me in age.  He finally got around to asking his son and his daughter if they would like quilts for their children.  Mind you, I've only been asking him since they were born - well, almost since then.  Okay, it only seems like it.  Anyway, not only did Daniel ask them (or more likely his wife Jill did, and he was given the job of reporting their answers), but also he reported the colors of their bedrooms.  Wow, that's really doing the job right!   Now I have three more quilts to make, and I couldn't be more happy.  It's such fun to plan and make things like this for people who will appreciate them.

Of course, my daughter needs to receive hers first . . .

Friday, March 16, 2012

Janet Haigh: Her Work

Every now and then I stumble across a blog that reaches out to me with kindred-spirit-fingers from the screen of my computer.  Sometimes those fingers gently let go after an entry or two, but some have a more tenacious hold.  Right now I have become ensnared by Janet Haigh's blog.  I've read only a few entries, flown through dozens and dozens of photos, and I am thoroughly intrigued by everything she does.  My next move may be to find out more about her from someone else - or maybe not.  It might be more fun, and more worthwhile for me to develop my own ideas about her and her work by exploring her blog further.

Recently I sent some friends photos of a wedding dress on which she did the ribbon embroidery.  The date is February 29, 2012 and the title is "Ribbon Flower Corset for Vintage Weddings".  It's a delightful entry - especially if you've just planned a wedding, are planning one, or hope to some time.  I loved the flowers made from printed pages farther on in the entry, and the cakes were quite unique though I thought they might be prettier and more effective in person. 

I found Janet Haigh's site when I idly googled embroidered pansies.  Wait until you see them!  I've seen many drawing of pansies with faces superimposed on them (a friend of mine recently called them the "clowns of the garden, isn't that lovely?) and have even drawn some myself.  But I've never embroidered pansy faces.  They are stunning, and the quality of the embroidery is very fine indeed.  She shows you her drawings of the actual pansy and the metamorphosis into the face of something else entirely. 

Currently Ms Haigh is working with another woman on an intriguing project.  You can read about it in the current entry.  That's what I read first after scanning several entries.  Here is another person besides me who pays attention to trees and what lives within them!  I have my favorite trees on streets around here - one is on Lydius and one on Old State, but there are others.  Now Janet Haigh is taking her fascination and doing something about it.

I don't want to tell you any more because I want you to have the pleasure of exploring this blog for yourselves.  Here is her blog address:     

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Bucket" LIst

A week or two ago, David asked me to make a list of eight places I feel that I must visit.  It didn't occur to me to ask if I could exclude the USA (because it's easier and less expensive to make a trip close to home) and if I could list places to which I've been before.  If you're trying to narrow your choices down to only eight places, the answers to those questions are important!

Here's one place that's on my list.  Will it make the cut? I think so, but until I do more research, I'm not sure.  Right now I think it is a place I'd like to spend a week with David, Esther, and Davis.

Then there's this as a destination.  Here I would stay for quite a while.  Are you beginning to see a pattern?

All right, I'll give you an easier one.  For this place, however, I'd need to have the answer to at least one of the above questions.


One of the problems that one has to deal with when developing a list of this kind is the political unrest in the world as well as the results of natural disasters.  Both could make travel to certain areas dicey.  And expense is always an issue as is the amount of time some journeys might take.

Where would you like to go?  Just for fun, see if you can come up with eight places.  You may include locations in the continental USA and countries you've been before.  Can you choose eight?  Are you willing to share them in a comment?  Reasons why would make it more interesting, but they aren't a requirement.  Who knows?  You may give me some ideas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Further Thoughts on Crazy Quilt Stories

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about what I had discovered as I worked on my crazy quilt blocks (see March 5, 2012, Monday).  I told her what I wrote here - that I find myself impelled to continue the story of the women in my family who passed to me certain traditions.  That made me realize that the entry called "Broken Dishes" had basically the same, though physically tangible, theme; in that entry it was women passing on prized possessions. 

My friend was clearly thinking as I spoke of this, and after a moment she said quietly, "It was different in my family."  When I looked at her quizzically, she explained, "In my family it was kindness."  She went on to tell wonderful stories about kindness.  Her stories and what they illustrated has stayed with me and has deepened my appreciation of vast number and kinds of tradition.  Certain characteristics and arising from those characteristics certain habits of behavior are also passed on.  Sometimes we wish more of us would continue that practice.  More integrity, moral ethics, patience, respect for privacy would be welcome, wouldn't it?

In my life, the gifts were in the realm of intellect (love of literature and learning, for example) and the arts.  Possibly because I am quite involved with sewing and painting right now, it didn't occur to me to think about actual character traits . . . which, I now realize, was supremely short-sighted of me.  This kind of inheritance can take so many different forms.

My brother's reaction to the incident that inspired the "Broken Dishes" entry should have made this abundantly clear to me.  I mentioned that I would talk about Davis' response later.  So here is some of it.  Davis said that he saw the broken dishes as having to do with his failure to take adequate precautions in his role as "caretaker" (of precious family heirlooms) to prevent such an occurrence.  He sited various reasons for his feeling, but his obvious distress at being in some way responsible for his wife's pain was the first.  He went on to talk about other perceived shortcomings with which I don't agree at all.  That reminds me of quilters who are always quick to tell you about the mistakes in their work, mistakes that no one would have seen if they had not been pointed out.  I wonder if self-criticism could be considered a tradition that has been passed along?

Going back to Davis as caretaker; there's something else that is handed down - specific roles.  Think about it.  We are all familiar with men who consider it their role to be the "provider".  "Caretaker" is simply another tradition passed from father to son or male to male.  Women aren't the only ones with strong feelings about family traditions, though our slant might be slightly different.  Sometimes I think we forget that men have strongly held views about what their part in the keeping of traditions  (I am talking about the positive things, remember!).

But this entire discussion started with the tradition of hand-work and preserving family heirlooms.  With that in mind, what do men do, make, preserve, or say that pays homage to their male ancestors that have taught them  . . . their role, their job in continuing male tradition?  It's more than just carving the turkey at Thanksgiving!

All this is definitely simplified, but I wanted you to follow the thread of my thoughts on this topic. Whatever each of us does, our traditions are very important to all of us, and they certainly go beyond the greeting card sentiments at holiday time.   Take a moment to think about the good things passed on to you that you carry forward.  If you feel like sharing, I'd love to hear your stories (which I won't share unless you give me permission, and remember, you can comment anonymously). 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Cottonwoods in the Canyon"

Only a hair's breadth away from completion!  This is what I was going to do on Saturday and didn't, but I did paint on Sunday even though I was holding my breath hoping I was doing the right thing.  If you've been reading the saga of this painting (see February 14th), you might remember that I was torn as to whether or not it was finished.  I knew the trees were missing, but I really liked the pow of color of just the canyon walls.  After many discussions with various people, I realized that I had to have the trees (these were painted using both brush and palatte knife) - the cool green of those in the shade and the green of those in the sun on the floor of the canyon.

To me, this was an essential addition to the composition.  Do you agree? 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crazy Quilt Block 2

My, I hadn't realized I had fallen so far behind in my entries; I usually try to write five days a week.  My apologies!

Saturday I expected to spend a good portion of my time painting.  Unfortunately for that plan, I noticed the fabrics I had chosen to use in my second crazy quilt block before I looked at the painting I  thought I'd work on.  Oh well, at least I got everything stitched on to the foundation fabric.  Here's what it looks like at this stage: 
The photograph is one of those I had enlarged and transferred to fabric. It's a sorority picture from Gamma Phi Beta at Syracuse University around 1927 (I have to check the date), and my mother is in the middle of the group.  It is very hard to see her because each face is so small.  Since this enlargement came out quite well and isn't a photo we've really be able to see before, I decided to use it.  The choice of fabrics was dictated by three things.  The picture has quite a greenish cast,  mother's dress has a lace collar, and she didn't like pink! 
When I found that wonderful green ribbon in my stash, I knew I had found not only the frame for her portrait but also the colors I would use.  It's hard to tell unless you click on the photo, but the lines in the ribbon are gold, almost orange, purple, and lighter shades of green.  The brown floral flower above her head is a purchased item I found in my things while looking for the ribbon, and I picked up the swallow/skylark for this block in a local store.  The music is a twill ribbon I bought quite a while ago, and most of the fabrics have been waiting patiently for a crazy quilt.

The plan is to embroider something on the large piece of plain burnt orange on the lower right.  Some of the seam lines aren't as lovely as they could be, but the decorative stitches that will hide the seams should help soften if not correct that.  You are still able to see both basting stitches and pins used while attaching the fabric to the foundation piece.  That swallow/skylark may also be moved slightly as his tail is getting lost on the green and gold fabrics to his right, and the music ribbon will be
 shifted a bit.

Esther suggested that I frame the first crazy quilt block in a shadow box as a solo piece.  At the time I thought, "No, this crazy quilt has a life of its own and a story to tell.  The first block belongs with the others that are to come."  Now I'm not so sure that the first block will work with this one and those to come.  These colors are so different from the first except for the black which is the carry-through color.  And of course, the photograph is a new element.

I seem to be back to "Daisy Makes Do" and the stories of  women handing down traditions from mother to daughter or woman to woman.  My mother passed on her love of music, flowers, reading (the swallow/skylark represents literature - "Ode to a Skylark"), but most of all she gave her daughters her love of creating with fabric, needle, and thread.  There is a need in me to pay tribute to all women who have gone before but have left each of us something to carry on ourselves.  Do you understand or share this feeling? 


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Painting

This painting which I started last week and yesterday worked on for the second day is intended as a birthday present for David.  I believe it's safe to post the photo and discuss it since he doesn't read my blog (he has heard it all at least once already, poor man!). 

This is the view we have from the cabin in which we stay while on vacation in Vermont.  You are looking at the south end of the lake where the mountains from the east (on the left hand side) appear to meet those on the west (at the right hand side).  This bay is also the narrowest part of the lake and is considered the Premier View.  For years and years we rented cabins on the east side and had the best possible views of sunsets but none of the Gap (as this view is called).  Now we rent on the west side and have traded sunsets for this lovely vista.

Almost all of the first layer of paint is on (you can see some areas of white canvas both in the sky and in the area below where some buildings will be nestled at the edge of the lake), and some sections have received more attention today.  There are already areas that are crying out to me for changes or additional work.  The mountain on the left has a gorgeous, rocky cliff face that I'm beginning to get, but the silhouette work on that hill isn't quite right because one of the overhanging green "brows" is too heavy.  The other problem with the silhouette on that side is that one cannot yet see where this mountain ends and the one behind it peeks out.

There are colors that need adjusting, but over all I am pleased with the way this is shaping up.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

About Schools and Books

Late yesterday afternoon, Jean and I went to our monthly Young Adult literature group at one of our local schools.  When the group was all seated in the library but the meeting had not yet started, there was quite a lot of discussion at the various tables.  The subjects were varied but continually circled back to what was happening in our schools.  As the participants of this group come from different school districts around the capital area, the details of the stories differed but general theme was the same - the cuts.  One of the most highly regarded local districts is facing the loss of 79 jobs.  The leader of our discussion group mentioned to us that at a recent meeting in her school, the teachers appeared to be totally demoralized.  A woman at our table told us, "None of this [cuts, budgets talks, raising test scores] is about the students [her emphasis]!" On our way home when it was just the two of us, Jean and I were able to say what we both had been feeling, "Thank goodness we are retired!" 

It seems that every generation of teachers goes through a time like this; we did, too.  But now it seems that education and teachers specifically have become the target of our politicians.  Our politicians see educators as an easy fall guys and point fingers at them when the public calls for cuts in spending at the state and national level.  If you think about it, local communities generally support their schools.  But look what has happened in this state and what our governor has done for or about schools and teachers.  Where is the forethought for raising future leaders, plumbers, scientists, retail employees, doctors, secretarial staff, and cooks?

Ah well, I really intended to spend more time on the books than on the politics in educating our children.  So on to books!  Our genre this month was dystopias (the opposite of utopias) and steam punk (sci-fi based on technology).  I may have said before that science fiction and fantasy aren't for everyone, but they are two of my favorite genres.  Since I am no longer in the classroom and don't have to think about recommendations for students, I read mostly those more appropriate for the older students.  Some of the books are definitely for adolescents so take note if you have any middle-school or high school students in your family.  Others bridge the high school-adult gap and are great reading for both.

One of my favorites in this group of books is I am Number Four by Pitticus Lore.  It's about John and his guardian who escaped from a planet destroyed in war and came to Earth.  Their hope is eventually to overcome the enemies responsible for the death of their civilization and return to their planet.  However, their enemies have followed them to Earth and are trying to find them to kill them.  It's an action filled book with a bit of romance.  The characters are believable and behave realistically even as John develops his super powers (yes, you read that right!).  Having grown up wanting to be invisible, to be able to do magic, or move objects with my mind, I like that part a lot and think others will, also. Oh, it's the first in a planned series; the second book will be The Power of Six.

Divergent by Veronica Roth is the best of the books.  The setting is a dystopian Chicago and where people are divided into 5 factions to limit destructive competition.  When children reach their 16th birthday, they are tested as to which faction they should join based on their abilities.  It is expected that each child has only one ability that will guide her or him to only one faction.  However, the main character is divergent.  She has abilities that would make her a candidate for any of the factions, and that is seen as being very dangerous.  The action is fast-paced and the main characters will appeal to both male and female readers.  The plot is imaginative and complex though not perfect (some in the group liked Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins better), and the book is planned to be one of a trilogy.

James Dashner's The Scorch Trials  is another good read.  It's the second in a series (Maze Runner was the first).  In a post-apocalyptic world, Thomas and his group have to survive in a brutal climate.  Earth has been burned by sun flares and is a wasteland.  The government is testing the ability of this group to survive both the climate and the Cranks (those who have fallen victim to a terrible infectious disease called Flare and are insane).  Sounds terrible, doesn't it?  But if you are able to suspend your disbelief (necessary when reading sci-fi or fantasy), you will find this an engaging book.  I think both boys and girls will enjoy this. 

You might also try Enclave by Ann Aguirre and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (the latter was a favorite of several in our group).  Happy reading!

Monday, March 5, 2012


From the title of this entry, you know I have managed to finish a few things (okay, only two, but . . . ): "My Mother's Spools" is bordered and the back is pieced; it's ready for the quilter.  Next the crazy quilt, block #1 is ready for critique from teacher Bonnie. 

Today I am going to let my photos do most of the talking.   Click on any picture for an enlargement.
My Mother's Spools
The outer border on this quilt is a homespun fabric - very dark brown (I know, it looks black, but it isn't) with only slightly lighter stars.

And here are several photos of the first crazy quilt block.  David is worried about how many blocks I plan to make as this one took me almost two months to complete!  I didn't work on it every day, and it took quite a bit of time when I did work on it just to decide what to do next.

Now for  closer looks at some of the areas:

There's a singleton, lost-its-mate earring (oh well, it was a pinchy, clip-on anyway) in the upper right-hand corner.

The Asian Swallowtail complete with Swarovski crystals and beads.

A slightly dizzying shot of the back stitch spider web with silver beads (lower left) and the chevron stitch with button and bead embellishment.

Can you tell I've had some fun?

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Quilting Tale

First, thank you those of you who have written comments recently.  It works!  Second, my new computer is fine; it's operator isn't always as bright as she could be.  I kept on being sent to the "Photographs to Fabric" entry because that's what I had open when I put it in my favorites (how many days has it taken me to figure that out?).  Finally, "Broken China" elicited several comments; the last one was from my brother Davis.  He related how he felt as he stood beside his wife and saw both her pain and the cherished china platters that were broken.  I will share some of that comment with all of you when I have been able to come to terms with it.  It's quite profound and a pain of a different kind.

On a lighter note, most of you know that I delayed getting involved in quilting while I was still teaching because I thought it was something that had to wait until I retired (as though I wasn't allowed to do anything that I might enjoy while working?!).  Two or three years before I retired, I suddenly threw up my hands and thought, "Why ever on earth should I wait?"  You know the story.  Deciding to learn how to do things correctly, I took Karen's Beginning Quilting class, learned a lot, and loved it so much I decided to take another class, and another, and another. 

There was a downside to my new found enthusiasm.  Each class had its own project.  Karen's class stretched over several months so by the end, one had a completed wall hanging.  The subsequent classes were only a day, or maybe two days long.  Projects were started, but the next class was coming.  There was no time to finish each project.  That's what my UFOs are - the result of unbridled enthusiasm.  Recently, I came across one of those UFOs that I really want to finish.  It is from my second class: paper-piecing with Mardi.  Loved the method, loved the project.  All the blocks (only 20 of them) were finished, but the they had not been sewn together.  You can see why:
I hadn't taken any of the paper off, and I had used regular computer paper!  I had tried to sew two of the blocks together, but they were inside out, upside down, and backwards.  I do remember breaking my needle (on my old Singer machine), also.  Last week I finished removing all of the paper and was surprised at how easy it was (unsewing the two blocks wasn't!).  Even so, next time I'm using the paper designed for paper-piecing, and maybe I'll keep going on whatever project that one turns out to be.

Now I've finished sewing all the block together (the photo below shows the project with all but the last row sewed on - and out of focus!) and plan to purchase fabric for the borders before next week.  Naturally there will be some additional work done on this, but at least I'm working on an almost-finished-UFO (which makes it a AFUO!).
"My Mother's Spools"
 I'm so glad I started quilting before I retired; now I have time to finish the projects I started when I was still working!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Broken China

Do you ever wonder about the women who left their families and friends to travel West and never saw or heard from them again?  Every now and then I do.  What strikes me the most (and what took me many years to really comprehend) is the lack of reliable mail.  If those women were very lucky, they could write and at some point during the rest of their lives they were able to send a message via someone traveling back East.  Then, of course, I think about the journey made by such a letter, and I wonder how many ever made it back to the intended recipient.  Imagine how the women felt as they set up their new home and put out the one piece of china they had been able to bring from their original home.  It was the only tie to loved ones and meant the world to them. 

Think about the way we all cherish things that were left to us by loved ones we will never see again. Do you have a special piece of jewelry, photographs, china, or handwork made by a family member?   Some of us may even have diaries and/or letters.   If you do, you know what I mean.  Most of us are fortunate enough to have several such precious things that have been handed down to us by our families. 

Now imagine you lose it all.  Fires, floods, tornadoes . . . many of us have been touched by one or another of those natural disasters.  Fortunately for the majority of us, at most it's been a flooded basement, but in the last year or two, a few may have lost much more.  Or, what I think is even worse, we lose some precious item through our own doing. 

I remember a move David and I made when a moving man swooped up a box in the kitchen that hadn't been sealed beacuse I was still putting things in it.  Near the top was a piece of Haviland china that had belonged to my grandmother.  I can still remember the sound it made as it slipped out of the box and shattered on the floor.  I also remember standing in the corner of the kitchen facing the cabinets with my hands over my face as I sobbed.  Why hadn't I thought to tell the movers the boxes in the kitchen weren't quite ready?  Why weren't they ready?  Why had something so precious to me been left until the last to pack? 

Precious things don't have to be valuable to anyone else except us.  In the grand scheme of things, I don't think that plate would have interested many other people, but it meant a lot to me.  So I understand how Esther felt yesterday, and my heart (and I'm sure yours, too, if you read her comment on yesterday's posting) goes out to her - and to any of you who have experienced that kind of loss. Things that connect us to those whom we love have meaning beyond their mere surface value. 

Broken china (as a metaphor for all emotionally significant items in our lives that we've lost) also connects us to all who have shed tears over the loss of visible reminders of loved ones or special moments.  As women we have an understanding and a visceral sense of what that loss is like for anyone.  So, Esther, not that it may help very much, I am sure that everyone who reads your comment commiserates with you and understands your feelings through shared experiences.