Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Whew, that certainly was me in a "down mood" yesterday, wasn't it!   Today was a better day; both brothers are fine though the one in northern NJ is without power - of course.  So although this is an old photo, it makes me think of Halloween and so is worth sharing again.

Hope you all enjoyed the little ones (and the bigger ones, too) in their Halloween finery!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"The New Normal"

I'm going to pass on writing my usual kind of entry tonight; the phrase "the new normal" keeps repeating in my mind like a song you despise but can't get out of your head. 
When do you think people are going to accept the fact that what is happening to the weather (and therefore to millions of people across the globe) is at least in part due to our heedlessness?  Tonight on the news, one expert was saying that even if we changed our ways immediately, it would take decades to repair the damage we've done.
If you're like me, you immediately start thinking about our grandchildren or the little ones that will be coming to our doors tomorrow. 
If the weather will allow them to leave the shelter of their homes. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


Poor coastal areas!  Watching the news tonight has been amazing; I can't comprehend the size or ferocity of this storm.  Yes, I look at the weather map and see the area affected by Sandy, but it doesn't sink in.  Fortunately. 
My east-coast-of-Florida brother and family are okay.  They didn't get the battering that Florida so frequently does.  Only some rain and wind this time, he said.  My northern-New-Jersey brother and two of his sons and their families may not be faring so well, and that is a worry.  Watching the weather reporters standing virtually in the surf leaning against the wind is beyond belief.
The devastation of New Orleans was unbelievable, but as far reaching as it was, it occurred in one locale.  And it was relatively far away.  This time it seems that most of the eastern seaboard and inland, our area,  is going to be wiped clean.  Earlier this afternoon,  our neighbor who vacations in Block Island spoke about low-lying areas of that island and wondered if they will be cut off from the main island or simply submerged.  That made me think about all the islands and low-lying seacoast areas from South Carolina on up and their fates.
Will the cartographers be drawing new maps?
What shape will recovery take for those who are losing so much?  How can we help?
And finally, when will our weather settle back down into its more predictable patterns?  Or are we beginning to chart a new "predictable"? 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sisters in Quilting

Pat C has been the subject of an earlier (very early!) entry, and today she is the reason behind as well as part of this entry.  Through her, my special group of women friends, have met Theresa (Pat's mom) and Theresa's sisters, and assorted others.  If I counted right (and it was hard to do because these ladies do NOT sit still for counting purposes!) the Sisters' Group were 8 altogether, we were 4, L and J were 2, the shifting group behind me (whom I couldn't see so they played games to confuse me) were either 4 or 7 depending on when I looked, David (the host and superior chef and quilt holder extraordinaire), and two young ladies-in-waiting.   So depending on when you were trying to count there were possibly 21 or 24 or 32 or 12.  Well, I never was very good at math.  It was a large group.
The purpose of this gathering was for the Sisters' Group to have a Show and Tell of all their creations since the last meeting and in particular to show off their Challenge quilt.  Knowing I was in for a treat, I took a front row position on the floor where I could see very well.  I knew these women were prolific, but there is no way I was prepared for the sheer volume of glory I would see.  The first lady showed what I thought were going to be 3, many 4 quilts.  I was wrong.  I think she had 10 (of which maybe 8 were applique).  The next lady showed us 15, and the next one had 25, and the next had 40, and the next - well, you get the picture.  Among the 8 women in the Sisters' Group there were enough quilts to show at Proctor's Theater!  Prolific doesn't even begin to encompass the work these women do.
But as special as their quilts were (and I didn't take photos but Karen did so do check her blog!), the beauty, excellent workmanship, and number of quilts is not really the subject of this entry.  Once again, I was most impressed by the community of women.  Yes, these were mostly sisters and probably had been raised to love one another, but more than that, these women liked each other.  They truly admired what the others had created, they admired, they were actively aware of everything that went on, and as I said earlier, they didn't sit still for more than a moment.  Best of all, the laughter, oh, my, the sheer joy of being together.  These are vibrant women, who use everything they can, throw nothing away, give to others, and share their knowledge willingly.  
This was a time for them, yet each and everyone of the Sisters' Group and all others who were an integral part of this gathering, welcomed the rest of us whole heartedly.  We could have been an imposition, taking up their special time, intruding on a family, but they never let us feel that way.  The Sisters' Group of women opened their arms to the others of us who were there and made us all one community.

Now, that's power.

Wonder what their adoption policy is?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Variegated Threads, Continued

Last week I wrote about the discoveries made while working with variegated thread.  Knowing that most of you already knew all about and had vastly more experiences with this subject, I added what I was learning.  Every now and then, while standing in front of thread cabinets pondering my next purchase, I hear someone say, "Oh, I don't use variegated threads."  To me, that's like saying, "I don't use cinnamon."  I do understand that we all have differing tastes, but I can't help wondering if a few of those people don't use variegated threads because it intimidates them.  I hope they'll experiment some day if that is indeed the case.
Anyway, here is the completed snowman. All I have left to stitch are the tongues (aka pen wipes) that will be attached on the left and right and the backing. I hope hesitant stitchers will try variegated threads because I had such a ball stitching this little piece! 
The pattern had some elements that I changed.   I redesigned the snowflakes on the body of the snowman. Oh, and those irregular squarish coal-for-buttons? Glued on and then secured with honking-big French knots and single-strand black embroidery floss for coal-nugget eyes and smile. A more noticeable change was the branches that are the snowman's arms.  They are supposed to have green leaves, but that didn't seem right.  It's winter!  So my branches are from an evergreen and have needles and pine cones (one strand beige and one strand darker brown in French knots) .  The black bird is a red one singing with spread wings.  

Below you can see what I did with the carrot nose.  I had discussed using the thread to indicate the ridges in the carrot, and it worked well - makes it look more, well, carroty!   Fortunately,  I was able to find some appropriate buttons in my button collection to add that missing little something to the stars.  By the way, here you can see what I meant when I mentioned how subtle the variegation often is in Valdani threads (which I used on the stars).

This sort of folk art piece is a wonderful place to try new threads in an obvious way.  Clearly, it gave me a lot of pleasure.  I'm about to start a new piece where the thread choices will be more subtle.  It will be interesting to compare the two pieces. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quilt Mystery

As I was looking for a particular photograph in my files today, I came across three from the Gilbertsville Quilt Show I had wanted to share with you. Here they are with the description and attribution first:
Now the pillow cover.  Isn't it amazing?  Have you ever seen anything like this technique?  I believe I know how it is made, but I wish I could have seen the back to be sure.

The next two are close-ups.  Can you figure it out?

Just imagine the time it took to collect all these fabric snippets.  Or do you think there was an exchange among the local women so they could all make one of these pillow covers without collecting for years?

It looks like a Crazy pillow, doesn't it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

For Fiber Fans

Our next door neighbor is a friend as well as a neighbor, and he is often a guest at our house to share a glass of wine and companionship.  The last time he came over, he had recently been on his annual fall trip to Block Island, and he brought over some items he bought there that he knew I would love to see and touch.  He was right!
The first item was a stunning "rug", perfect colors in stripes with fringe at either end.  You see it in the first picture on my couch; I think the color combination is wonderful!  In the second photo, our neighbor holds it so you can get an idea of size (he is over 6').  He said he has no intention of walking on it because it's just too special to "get all muddy" and I agree.  He's going to use it as a wall-hanging.  Won't that be striking! 

The final picture of a hat and the advertising materials has a special story.  As you can tell from that rug, this fiber source produces products as well as yarns.  Neighbor wanted a warm hat for winter wear and tried on everyone they had on hand.  They weren't big enough.  Usually, that would earn a shrug and a, "Sorry, we can't help you", but not in this case.  The fastest knitter was summoned, his head was measured, yarn and pattern chosen, and he was told to come back later.  He did, the hat was ready, it fit, and he did not have to pay extra for the custom work.  The yarn is an alpaca/bamboo blend so it's as soft as can be.

The following description has been copied from their site (address below):

Block Island Made Exotic YarnsNorth Light Fibers is proud to introduce a new and expanded assortment of exotic yarn blends for knitters, weavers and weavers. These yarns are specially designed and hand crafted from exotic fibers based on our experience and feedback during our retreats as well as from all the knitters and weavers we work with.

For example, our Forever Yarn blend consists of 80% baby alpaca and 20% bamboo to create a strong and soft yarn that has a light hand feel for optimal lace knitting or warp/weft tension. In addition to our
exotic yarns, our colors are developed to create unique depth, richness, and surprise. We spend a great deal of time on color theory in order to help you create beauty. Given our approach, we name our handspun yarns and colors as each is "one-of-a-kind" like your knit and woven creation.

All of our yarns have a natural or specialty developed color of blended exotic fibers such as baby alpaca, buffalo, yak, camel, merino, bamboo, silk and soy silk. Our yarns range from
lace weight yarns, fingering yarns, sport weight yarns and worsted weight yarns to rug and large super chunk yarns. While baby alpaca is our primary fiber, please look through each of the yarns on the following pages and call us if there is something you would like. We are always making new blends of exotic fibers and unique colors for your knitting, weaving and crocheting pleasure.

Did you notice the bit about blends, "Call us if there is something you would like"?  If you're looking for nice yarn for those little gifts you need for the holidays, consider North Light Fibers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Perils of Watching Late Night Debates


Sorry, but I watched the final debate and the commentary that came after (though only on two channels) tonight so I find myself unable to come up with a coherent sentence!  All I can do is yawn so I'm off to bed.  More tomorrow - but NOT about politics!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Search for Beauty

My challenge to myself today was to find beauty in my garden even though there is nothing in bloom and the trees are almost leaf-less.  The first thing I saw when I went out back was the weeping crabapple that is almost completely bald.  Unfortuantely, the photo I took in which that tree is the star does not make a very convincing argument.  So I took another try and used the branches of the American beech to frame it and add that dash of color.  Now I think it works.

"Birdhouse with Antenna" is what I think I will name this next photograph.  Imagine the bird who lives in that house complaining that even with the biggest antenna money can buy, he still can't get the Antarctican Emperors vs Ice-Cold Seals games!  This is an example of, "Oops, I didn't notice that!" picture-taking.  But it's worth it for the laugh.

Finally, there is pretty picture of my neighbor's tori gate with his fading mums below the gate and the almost-gone burning bush in the background.   Even the hanging pot with its skeletal stems and the exhausted "bird" on the gate add a few touches of whimsy. 
Now are these lovely pictures that I'm going to run upstairs and turn into paintings?  No.  But are these photographs that make me see there is still loveliness around me?  Yes!
So the next time you hear me bemoan the coming of November and its gray and brown palette, smack me on the head, and remind me to look for beauty because its everywhere.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lessons Learned - Variegated Thread

Aren't variegated threads beautiful?  There they sit in the thread racks next to solid colors, and they almost bounce off the racks in their glee over their glory!  How can one resist them?  As you will soon see, I can't.  BUT, I am slowly coming to the realization that one must think a little, plan ahead even, before plunging a needle full of variegated thread into one's fabric.

One of my current activities that I can share with you is a wool project. It's a simple pattern that I've had as a kit for several years now - basically, it's a snowman. When I started sewing the ground onto the sky, I reasoned to myself that I was dealing with a snowman so I should use a thread that spoke "Snow" to me. Wildflower Threads has a gorgeous light blue/white variegated thread (I think its name may be Glacier or something like that). So I started my stitches. I didn't like it but kept going. After three inches, I stopped because I still didn't like it. It was too white, too stark on the black ground, and I had stitched three inches and the blue still hadn't appeared (wish I had taken a photo of it, but didn't). So I switched to a thread that had blue/lavender/brown/and more, and oh, what a difference! It said, "Snow in Shadows" to me.
You can see it very well in the first photo above but not so clearly on the curve of the snowman where the same thread seems lighter (it isn't - another trick of the light).  The second photograph shows the white/blue thread on the body of the snowman where I stitched a snowflake tonight.  I like the thread here because it was on the off-white color typical of wool with no competing dark color to make the contrast glaring. 
I was finally beginning to realize how to choose a correct variation of colors, or at least I hoped I was learning because my next thread choice was for the tweedy stocking cap the snowman is wearing.  Click on the photograph so you can see a larger version.  The thread was chosen because the colors were close to but not exactly like the ones in the tweed.  Also, I engineered it so the lightest/brightest colors of the thread were closest to the pompom on end of the hat where it would be farthest away from the head of the snowman (trying to be aware of competition).  Still on the stocking cap - because the cuff and pompom of the hat were made of the same material as was used for the snowman, I chose a different, almost solid color (Valdani thread) so as not to combine snowman and hat as one.

The stars were easy; it was the Valdani thread again.  Since there is a clear separation of stars and stocking cap, it shouldn't raise confusion by being the same thread.  It also more clearly has (on the stars) a slight variation of color.
Here's what I've learned so far about using variegated threads: 
  • both the fabric on which you are sewing and fabric behind it  - keep a color separation between the two
  • if you are working on dark fabric, the lightest color in the thread (darkest color if working on light fabric) will be the most obvious - so obvious that it will seem as though it is the only color
  • the composition as a whole - can you use the same variegation in different places for different elements?
  • what elements of the design do you want emphasized with the colors in the variegation?
I'm sure there will be more things to learn as I continue with both this wool project and the several that are waiting in my stash.  And of course, these considerations carry over into other creative activities, too. 
Now on to his arms!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nothing to Show

No photographs today, but I can report that today the pen and ink sketch of the heron is no longer black and green.  Now that it is thoroughly dried the ink that was green yesterday is brown today.  Curious, no?
Today I spent my time on a lot of little things.  As a result, I did a lot but have nothing to show for it.  Frustrating.  I did things like trace a design onto refrigerator paper for wool work, finish the hobby painting I started yesterday, conduct the daily fabric review, perform household chores, go grocery shopping, and that's about it.
There must have been something else!  Oh, yes, wait for the furnace man to come to do the yearly clean and check of our furnace.  Wow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Painting and Quilting

What a day!  I had time today for my painting class, stash-busting, piano practice, walk, and quilting - all in one day; what's not to like?
This was my first painting class in longer than I like to remember.  First the problem was my eyes, then our travel schedule, then my father-in-law's decline and death, the estate busy-ness, and now?  Voila, back into some of my favorite activities.  I took one of my older photographs (pre-digital camera) with me to use for a new painting.  It presents some issues I need to resolve before embarking on a larger painting - different subject but similar problems.  However, today's class was geared around a lesson on pen and ink drawings - something the class had begun last week.  Rarely one to pass up an opportunity to learn something, I put aside my plans and decided to work on pen and ink even though with the way the class is structured, I didn't have to.
It's been a long time since I've used pen in drawing and even longer since I've worked with ink washes.  Today's mini-workshop was terrific!  After a brief slide show of pen and ink drawings with descriptions of techniques used, we were encouraged to try doing some experimenting on our own.  I love the way Sharon teaches.  We were each given three different types of  paper (regular flat surface drawing paper, watercolor paper, and a rougher watercolor paper), and if we didn't have one with us (fortunately I just happened to) a pen with the right kind of ink.  We didn't have to make a drawing or do anything we didn't feel comfortable doing.  Each one of us did something different, but we all experimented first.
I decided I would draw the subject of my planned painting and include my experimenting in it.  So in the upper left I made some squiggly lines that could be used for leaves.  Then a bit farther down the same side I drew hard straight lines and some cross-hatching (parallel lines crossed in the opposite direction with more parallel lines).  Then I applied a bit of water to create the wash (later I applied water to the surface first and experimented by drawing on a wet surface).  I did that on all three papers.  It didn't take me long to decide I had to use a watercolor paper.  As we were doing thing, Sharon came around and gave each of us one larger piece of watercolor paper.
Here is my drawing:

The different colors were caused by also experimenting with a different pen that had a different ink.  I certainly didn't expect black ink to become greenish; isn't it neat?

Monday, October 15, 2012

One Project Finished!

After reading the title of this entry, you may be all excited for me thinking I have finished the task of weeding my stash.  Sigh.  That will take quite some more time even though I do a little work on it every day.
No, today's excitement is that I have finished making two Lazy Girl wallets.  It doesn't take long to do these handy little wallets, and since I've made several, I can almost do them in my sleep.  The issue is that recipient is in her twenties and therefore likes simplicity, probably no flowers, and neutral colors.  In other words, she's my opposite.  Once I realized that, I chose what I think are appropriate fabrics, but I'm nervous about whether or not I was successful.  One way or the other, they are finished.  
The batik wallet may be my better choice of fabric lines and colors.  The outside of the wallet is a black/gray stripe and a black and gray geometric design.  
William Morris fabrics

The photograph of the William Morris wallet has done strange things to the colors. However, the outside is taupe and gold (no metallic threads) roses (they're small flowers!), taupe leaves, and a gray background. The bottom portion is also a William Morris fabric and it matches the taupe of the leaves above. It is not green! 
After some consideration, I did not put buttons on the outsides of the wallets but opted for simplicity instead.  Buttons aren't really needed with the Velcro anyway.  I even managed to get these in the mail today (they must be in CA for a Halloween birthday).

Now I am back to sewing for Christmas.  It is a bit late, isn't it?  Wish me luck getting things finished!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween Tree as Inspiration

By now, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know my fascination with trees.  Several have been discussed in various entries - some with photographs and some without.

Well, last week I finally managed to take some pictures of what I call my Halloween tree.  Here's how it happened.  I had been out running some errands without D who things to take care of at home.  My last stop was at the grocery store and after that I drove through some little back streets to get to a road that leads more directly to our home. 
Since summer I have been reminding myself to take a picture of this particular tree in the fall.  It had to be fall because the nature of this oak tree demanded it, and because I really don't know how much longer this tree will be left standing.  It stands beside a farmhouse surrounded by fields that are no longer under cultivation.  The farmer from whom we bought vegetables in the summer thirty years ago was an older man at that time.  And he has since died.  You know what happens to small farms in that case.  The fields have been allowed to lie fallow for years since, since as he aged, the farmer couldn't keep up with the farming.  Parcels of land were sold.  Since his death, his family has not been able to keep the house from its slow decline.  Sadly, I predict the land will be sold - sooner rather than later - and this old oak will be cut down to make way for whatever buildings will go up.  Indeed, it may not last even that long.
Anyway, I realized as I drove home with my groceries that I had forgotten to stop for the picture, and I didn't even have my camera.  Thank goodness for cell phones!  I turned right around and drove back through the windy streets so I could reach the perfect vantage point for this tree.
Here it is.  Can you see why I named it as I did?
Another view that includes the old farmhouse as well as showing the spread of this old fellow.
This final shot should make clear why I named this tree the Halloween tree.
What will I do with these particular photographs?  I can imagine this tree showing up in a quilt.  Just look at that branch on the right as it zigzags into the distance and others that in typical old oak fashion bend in impossible curves.  Then there's that remarkably large hole; what do you think lives in there?  Or if you look up at the second picture, I can see a painting (edited, of course).  Look at the open door (open to what? to let something in or to encourage something to exit?)  and the blank staring window to the door's right.  Notice the siding and the general slide toward decay.  Then you can see the barn behind the oak tree and the poignant tilty birdbath. 
I mean no disrespect towards the family or the property.   Instead I like to chronicle my flights of fancy; the writing of this blog fixes my impressions in my mind and helps me remember them later.  My imagination likes to develop stories to match what my eyes see.  For example -
Where do you think Jack and King Crow  (from "Jack's Wild Ride") might be in this setting?  Where have they been, and what are they doing now?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Quilts from Gilbertsville

Today the entry will feature more quilts from the Gilbertsville show with some explanation of why they are included:


I love this pattern even though I will probably never make it.  It isn't because of all the triangles; it's because of all the tiny triangles!  There are so many quilts I want to make and many more I want to design and make, that I am beginning to realize some favorites will have to fall by the wayside (or seaside, in this case).  Do read cards for these quilts - some, like this one, are quite interesting.  Did you ever think you could earn a master's degree by making a series of stunning quilts?  Wish I could find Mary Krupp and shake her hand!  An MA that was quilt-worthy.  I love it.  And this is a great examples of why it's quite all right to use different focal and background fabrics!  See the depth in this quilt?

 This is why I love going to quilt shows; I get so many ideas.  Now I am not sure if this is an Alaskan-only pattern, but I thought it is a super way to journal/quilt a trip or an event.  One could use fabrics as this lady did, or your own photographs, or your own drawings or embroidery.  It's a memory quilt pure and simple and heaven knows many of us could use the memory boost!

With this one, you must read what Dorothy Caroll says about her quilt and her philosophy of saving vintage doilies in an "as is" condition.  While I don't agree with her on that point IF you have some good information about how to restore (stain removal especially) such finds, I love the idea of this quilt since I, too, collect vintage linens and needlework.  My particular favorite at the moment is bits and pieces of tatting.  Most of that comes in small pieces that I plan to use in crazy quilts, but some of it could use a larger showcase like this one.  And isn't her reason for using batiks terrific?  Another quilter whose hand I want to shake. 
I hope that by now you have noticed that not all of the quilts I chose to share were award winners even though some were quite fine examples.  Some of the quilts in these entries were made by people whose (gasp) points might be cut off, applique stitches might show, borders might sag, and so forth.  Early in my quilting career I might have been disdainful of such work and might have made mental notes about the errors (but I assure you I did not voice those thoughts out loud as some do - do they ever realize a new and proud quilter might be standing right behind them?), but fortunately, for the most part I have gotten over that.  Now I admire the quilters for the courage to "put it out there" for critique, for the determination to complete a project, for what I hope is their pride and pleasure, and finally, selfishly, for all the joy I get and all the wonderful ideas.
Now I'm off to watch the debate and you can be sure I'll voice my opinions - quite loudly, too!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

" 'tis the Last Rose(s) of Summer"

Here's a bouquet just for you as my apology for not writing last night:

This morning I took the vegetable matter (we call it our compostery) out to our compost heap and enjoyed the walk through the almost-rain.  Actually, it felt as though I was in a cloud and was merely occasionally bumping into the suspended water droplets.  Quite nice! 

That walk was made even nicer as I walked back to my house and noticed that two of the rose bushes against the back wall of our family room still had roses. It is October 10, you know; I sang to them as I cut them. By bringing them into the house, we can enjoy them (can't see them from our window), and they will probably last longer. Both of these roses are of the David Austin family of roses that I love so much. The yellow is "Graham Thomas" and the pinkish one is "Abraham Darby".  As I've said before, it was a great summer for our roses.
The poem, "The Last Rose of Summer", was written by Thomas More (1780-1852) and turned into a hauntingly lovely song by composer John Andrew Stevenson (1761-1833).  Here are the lyrics of this old song:
'Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone
All her lovely companions are faded and gone
No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh
To reflect back her blushes and give sigh for sigh
I'll not leave thee, thou lone one, to pine on the stem
Since the lovely are sleeping, go sleep thou with them
Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o'er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead
So soon may I follow when friendships decay
And from love's shining circle the gems drop away
When true hearts lie withered and fond ones are flown
Oh who would inhabit this bleak world alone?
This bleak world alone.
And for a very special end to this entry, here is a link to this song sung by Celtic Women (click on the link):
 P.S.  We saw some great photos from the  Schenectady guild's recent show the  thanks to Karen's blog:

Here are some more from Lynn aka Quilting Mama: 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Free-Motion Quilting

Sometime ago, ME signed up for a class in free-motion quilting.  It happened to be on a date I couldn't go, but I told her that was okay since I had no interest in the subject of the class.  As time went by and I thought more about it, however, I realized that I could save money if I could take care of my smaller pieces (table runners, small wall hangings, pillows, et al) if I could do the quilting myself.   Luckily for me, a new class was offered at a time I could take it, ME was able to change dates, so we both took the class last Saturday.
Well, let me tell you, it isn't easy.  Here's my first and third attempts (second one was angular meandering, and it was even worse than my first):

Meandering Star

Meandering Stitch

They are awful! Not only do I need a gazillion hours of practice on both, I also need to look more carefully at both stitches to see what they should look like because these are definitely not it. I should have taken photos of ME's meandering and passed it off as mine because she did a much better job!
The next stitch we were supposed to try was a meandering leave pattern.  It's quite pretty, but I was fed up with my meandering flame-outs and decided to forget meandering and just make leaves.  After all, I do know what leaves look like!  So here are leaves all around a border with acorns in the center.  Far from perfect but better (and lots more fun!).
Leaves and Acorns
Since I liked doing that and felt that I might have found something that I could do, I tried the meandering flowers.  Humph!  Got fed up with that quickly and decided I'd just work on flowers (and some squiggly stitches at the bottom left).   With these flowers you can tell that I haven't learned yet how to begin and end each element (see the thread leaving the left leaf of the lily of the valley and heading to the iris standards?).  What I was doing was completely spontaneous, and, lesson for self, this takes careful planning.
Lily of the Valley and Iris
 I did like the beard on the iris falls, though.  Below you will see a leaf (rabbit chewed?) and a tulip with more squiggle practice.  The tulip is okay though not as successful as the iris.  It's on a par with the lily of the valley.  And the leaf?  Well, let's just forget about it, okay? 
Tulip with Gnawed Leaf
I don't remember what I was supposed to be doing in this panel, but I thought since I love house quilts and plan to make one at some time, I'd try a tree and a house.  I started at the top of the tree (I really like variegated thread for this kind of thread play!), went down the trunk, back up and out a branch to the house.  At least I learned that I have to find a path for transportation.  Too bad I didn't think about proximity!
Tree Lassoing a House
There is something in this that will work for me so I will practice meandering (in thread not just walking around aimlessly, I promise!).  After all, I have to do some genuine quilting and not just draw pictures!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gilbertsville Quilt Show

Today D and I had to make another trip to his childhood home so he bribed me by promising a trip to the Gilbertsville Quilt Show.  Since I had been too ill to enjoy the recent Schenectady show, I allowed myself to be bribed.
We saw many fine quilts; D had his favorites and I had mine.  There were quilts I liked for what they were and there were those I liked for the ideas they shared with me.  Here is one that both D and I found fascinating:

The leaves were made using snippets of fabric which isn't a new idea, but I did think it was effectively done (good colors).  If you look at the second photo taken from the side, you can see the 3-d effect better.  What really fascinated me was the trunk; I'm not sure I understood the method from what Rosemary Jordan said, but one never has enough room to explain on these cards. 
 The featured quilter in this show was Wendy Swears.  The Tree of Life is a favorite pattern of mine, her piecing is very fine, the colors were ideal (and the red background is amusing), and I loved the way they hung the traditional miniatures (those are clothes pins on a mini-clothes line!).


Well, the fact that I loved this one is certainly no surprise to you because I love white (this was not hung well - the blue-green part of it is in front of a window, and the pink is picking up color from something else; this mini-quilt is traditional bleached white muslin).  What I liked is that this exercise wound up having some compositional merit.  So often one concentrates so hard on mastering the techniques that one doesn't have time to think about creating a pleasing finished work. 

There will be more photos and commentary to share with you as the week goes on.  Naturally, as soon as we drove away, I thought of several additional quilts I had wanted to capture but my view was blocked or D asked me to look at something so I forgot to go back.  Isn't that always the way?  We have records of many quilts (or flowers, or family, or - ) but lament the ones of which we didn't get a photograph!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gathering One's Courage

The after effects of the surgery on my left eye were less uncomfortable than the first; thank you for all your positive brain waves in my direction!  Today I had quite a giggle when I went for the post-operative check up.  A nurse took me into the examining room to take the pressure reading in the eye and to have me read an eye chart,  What an experience that was!  I could see the chart.  Now, isn't that something!  Please note that I said I could see the chart; I did not say I could see the letters.  I laughed and said, "Well, I can guess.  I bet the first letter is an E."  Actually, I could almost see that much, and the rest was a game of figuring out if I could get a sense of the shape of the letters.  When I had "read" two more lines, she stopped me, had me put on my glasses, and turned on the lights.  We whooped with laughter because I wasn't even close!  Now when the doctor came in, he was very solicitous and anxious that I not be worried as he explained that the eye was still quite swollen which was why I could see.  I had figured out that much for myself (the white of the eye was bulging most unbecomingly - happens often when allergy season hits).  Ah well, he was kind.
Now that I've shared that, I want to tell you about my real subject for the day.  People frequently tell me they'd be too embarrassed to show anyone their drawings when we talk about designing quilts and making those preliminary "idea" sketches.  When I try to explain, that my work is often as rough and dreadful as their dogs' worst attempts, they don't believe me.  Yes, sometimes, the ideas are so clear and are merely pictures that can easily be drawn, but other times I have to plan the geometry of a design.  Geometry?  Puh-leeze!  Normally, I don't carry my earliest plans around with me to convince people that these sketches are preliminary and that the viewer should look through the messiness to the idea and concentrate on the designer's intent. 
So in order to convince you to gather your courage and share these sketches with one another, here's one I did tonight.

Yes, I really was using a magenta sharpie that was near at hand.  Here's my idea - fit a circle inside the center of a large hexagon, and then invert larger semi-circles so the points meet the points of the hexagon and the curves touch the inner circle, and finally work designs within all areas.  You'll notice that I added a smaller circle in the center and spokes radiating out from that circle to the point where the apogee (? correct term? I don't think so) of the semi-circle touches it's sister circle.  Whew, I have trouble trying to explain without pointing to the areas I'm discussing. 
If you click on the drawing to get it larger, you might be able to see the letters and numbers I use to tell myself what my plan is.  For example, there are three main designs (numbers 1, 2, and 3) cradled in the semi-circles.  Each one will be repeated once (the corresponding numbers appear in the empty sections of the last three semi-circles).  Why draw everything again when, once I have it the way I want it, I can merely trace each image?  I didn't get much farther because it was getting late.  Also, I need to think about this a little more.
And I have no idea how to draft this accurately!  If anyone can help me, please write a comment on this blog because I could use the help!!!
And therein is one very, very good reason for gathering your courage and showing your sketches to friends and family.  You can enlist their help with problems!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


It's been such a rainy, cool week so far that I already felt the need for some sunshine in my life. That made me think you might also need to feel some warmth on your shoulders - even if it's only imaginary. Here's a picture from Vermont taken while we were on one of my favorite walks. This view is not the most stunning of this lake, but I love the trees in the foreground, the small open field, then the lake, and the glorious sky.  Imagine standing in the field with the sun warming your back as you enjoy the view. Ahhhh -

Today I spent my time tidying and cutting fabric.  Here's the funny part.  Tonight as I left the family room to come upstairs and write my blog, I looked around and commented to D that he had done a great job of putting away some of the many boxes (ancient photos yet to be sorted from D's dad's home) and making things look nice, while all my so-called "tidying" merely made more of a mess (more bags of fabric/projects sorted into piles)!  I wonder how long this will take?
The following photograph was also taken in Vermont (in a different direction this time) when I saw these leaves.  Aren't they wonderful (even though they may make you think of fall)?  They've turned such a deep mahogany color it makes the veining look almost chartreuse.  Striking, aren't they!  No, I don't know what they are, but I know some day they'll turn up in something - maybe embroidery.  Imagine a leaf done in a double strand of wool floss in a long and short stitch with the veins in a thick, raised stitch sewn in a heavier shiny perle cotton with some shiny beads (possibly an occasional opalescent one for a dewy effect) threaded through it.  Hmmm, pretty idea, I think. 

Anyway, tomorrow I have surgery on my left eye to take care of that cataract so I'm not sure when I'll make my next entry. 
In the meantime, let your creative spirit take flight!  Take out your sketch pad and take notes of wild things you might do to leaves like the ones above.  Change colors?  Turn them into the wings of birds or fairies?  Make them the roofs of tiny houses in which toads and field mice live?  How would you stitch them, the houses?  the creatures?  What colors would you use?