Thursday, November 29, 2012

Busy Day

No pictures today and not a great deal of interesting news either.  It was a day for getting my hair trimmed, running errands, squaring up the two fairy quilts, sewing the binding strips together, cooking dinner, and completing the decorating of the g'bread men/turtles.
The latter was still fun.  I made one of the g'bread men into a Detroit Tiger so the Yankee player would have someone to play catch with.  The Tigers are D's baseball team, and the Yankees are our grandson's favorites so he'll enjoy having both on his tree.  The last large g'bread man is now a Santa.  The last wood turtle has a baseball frosted on his shell, and the final sea turtle is masquerading as a loon (now that was fun!).
When we return from our weekend of helping with our daughter's tree trimming and the bonsai club's annual Christmas party, I will be able to work diligently on binding the two fairy quilts.  I hope. 
Then on to more Christmas gifts.  Have a successful weekend as you try to get everything on your list done!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gingerbread . . . Turtles?

A few days ago our grandson called and invited us to help them decorate their Christmas tree.  Who could refuse an offer like that?  And of course, we immediately began discussing what we could take with us that wouldn't impinge on their family traditions.  We chose gingerbread cookies that could be hung on the tree just as Rebecca used to hang them on our tree.  At first I thought of the usual gingerbread shapes mostly men and woman with a few other shapes thrown in for fun. 
But wait . . . this is our grandson who has developed a deep interest in turtles (thanks to D, his Papa).  With D and C (grandson) around checking up on me, I didn't dare make anatomical mistakes with my turtles so this afternoon, I checked on-line for pictures of both sea and land turtles. Then I took out a brown paper bag and drew two templates, cut them out, mixed, refrigerated, and rolled out the dough. 
I've discovered from past experience that it isn't difficult to cut around paper bag templates as long as the knife is sharp, the dough cold, and the patience in place.  It does take longer than using cookie-cutters, but the final product is personal and, therefore, superior.  If you try it yourself, just make your shapes are as simple as possible to start with.  It makes cutting easier, and also simplifies lifting the cookies from cutting surface to cookie sheet.
After baking the turtles and a few gingerbread men and women of different sizes, we let them cool.  The big ones already have the holes which I make with plastic straws before baking for the ribbons (to loop over strong tree branches) and the smaller ones are for eating.  Have you ever hung cookies on the tree?  You know you want to eat them!  So I made some extras just for eating.  The cookies all look a bit strange at this point, but I think you can tell which are the g'bread people and which are turtles.  

After dinner I decided to decorate a few while watching TV.  And wouldn't you know it; I just noticed that I took the one physically challenged boy (right foot is missing) to decorate as a Yankee!  Subtle reminder that being challenged doesn't mean you have to sit around for the rest of one's life?  Oh well, our daughter's family will appreciate this Yankee - missing foot and all.  The sea turtle is on the right and the land turtle on the left. 

I'll finish the others tomorrow and let you know after the weekend how the cookies are received.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Comments on Painting

Sunday I posted a photograph of a painting-in-progress that I have, quite unimaginatively, called Boathouse.  The inspiration for this painting is a photograph I took of an old boathouse on the lake where we spend time every summer.  So it is a real place that is being more or less realistically portrayed.  I have chosen to show an early dawn sky even though the sun does not rise where I have placed it in my version and that is one of the perks of painting.  The painter can change reality.
However, a painter should not change the rules of nature without very good reason and considerable deliberation.  That was pointed out to me by my brother in a comment he made (remember I asked for comments?).  He reminded me that if the sun were rising where I had it and at that time of day, the shadows cast by objects such as the rocks would be quite different from the shadows I had portrayed.  He went on to detail how the shadows would be different.  Then he also mentioned that the colors would be altered by the sun at the horizon line, also. 
Let me tell you; I printed his comments and scotch-taped them to my easel.  Until last Sunday, I had no sun and no dawn so both shadows and colors were all right (maybe not great but at least headed in the right direction).  When I decided to add an early dawn, I put in the sun and added a few hints of appropriate color in both lake and sky though not enough for anyone (my brother) to notice.  I had not thought through the impact on my painting of the changes I had arbitrarily made.  That's why the comment is taped on my easel - as a reminder for the future as well as for now.  My brother thinks about his work.  His approach includes the necessary cerebral exercises while mine is clearly quite slapdash. 
Then there was also a comment from Esther.  She is concerned about the perspective of the boathouse from the point of view I have chosen (I imagine myself on a nearby rock on the lower right of the painting).  I feel that my perspective is correct, but her comment tells me that as I have represented it in my painting, it is not believable or understandable to other viewers.  Unfortunately, I forgot to discuss it with my teacher today (we were working on other issues), but clearly, I need to.  What I will say to Esther is to give me a little more time to "set the stage" with the support under the boathouse which will anchor it in the painted landscape.  When I paint again, I will turn the canvas upside down which will give me an inverted view of what I have actually "drawn" rather than what I think I have drawn.  That upside down trick really works, by the way. 
The third comment was from ME who suggested an addition.  She thought a boat in the lake would add to the composition, and I agree that the left side of the painting may seem a bit empty.  However, that emptiness is deliberate.  The way I remember this scene is how silent it was, how serene, and how devoid of civilization.  I'd like to be able to convey that even when humans are present (the boathouse symbolizes a human presence has been there), it possible to experience that quiet, that peace.  I may need to go back to the misty morning with no dawn! 
This is why I ask for comments.  They are so very helpful in making me think about what I am doing, defend my choices, and explain my intentions.  So don't be shy about voicing your thoughts.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Machine Binding

This entry is not for the die-hard purist in you; this is a practical solution to the problem of binding a gift quilt.  First of all, for all my love of hand piecing, embroidery, crewel, etc, I do not enjoy hand-sewing binding on my quilts.  I am not a fast sewer, I try to be meticulous, and I loathe it.  So when I read an article that mentioned machine binding both the front and the back of a quilt, I knew I had to try it.

This past year, I attempted machine binding on several pieces.  It wasn't very successful for a number of reasons.  I gave it up.  Then recently I came across another article in which machine binding was the focus, and the author actually described what she did.  Lights went on again! 
Remember the three quilts I made for the greats?  It took two days to square up the quilt (cut all the excess batting and material away in such a manner that the edges were straight and the corners right angles), cut the binding strips and sew them together, iron the binding, pin it on the quilt, and sew.   But I did it, and at the end of the two days the quilt is officially finished (well, except for the label - but that's easy).  As you look at the pictures, remember this quilt is for a child.

Machine stitch the binding on the back of the quilt using a regular running stitch, fold it over to the front, and sew the front of the binding (usually with a running stitch close to the edge of the binding where it meets the quilt).  The author of the article suggested using the decorative stitches on our machines especially for children's quilts. 

This stitch looks like waves to me.  You'll notice that the entire pattern stitch is on the solid black binding.  It is wide enough to hold the edges down, and I didn't want the stitch to get lost in among the fish.  The variegated thread makes it stand by itself.  I don't think I'd use something this busy on many quilts, but I thought this one could handle it. 

Here's the first corner (sorry it's so blurry) on the lower right of the photo.  I learned that even with an even-feed foot my machine could not deal with the added bulk of the mitered corner.  This one will be taken out, trust me.

The second corner and then all others were sewn like this.  I'd get about a half-inch away from the corner, use the "needle down" feature, change the mode of my machine from embroidery stitches to a straight stitch, sew the corner, and the reverse the procedure.  It will take some practice to make this better (catching the embroidery stitch at just the right point and making sure the fold over of the miter is properly caught isn't as easy as you might think).

A final view of the corner with the squared off method I used. 
I've already decided on the stitch I'll use on the two fairy quilts, and for the first time, I'm actually looking forward to sewing on a binding.  Embroidery stitches aren't a requirement; a running stitch in a color matching or slightly darker than your binding will work very well. 
With my king size quilts this will make me positively euphoric! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Boathouse 3/4

No, that doesn't mean Boat House three quarters; it means Boathouse days 3 and 4 together.  But before I explain the today's title, how was your Thanksgiving?  Did you have a wonderful time with your family?  We did.  Even though we are a very small family, it was good to be together.  The feast was delicious (D makes almost all the "sides" - when did we start calling them that?), and I decided to set a proper table (you know, linens, silver, crystal, etc.) so it looked like Thanksgiving.  It surprised me how much I liked that.  Anyway, even though some of us may have eaten more than we had intended, the joy of being with loved ones made that one day's indulgence worth it.  I do hope your weekend was memorable, too.
Now, it occurred to me as I came upstairs to write this entry, that I didn't show you or talk about my progress on the Boathouse painting last week.  I did go to class last Tuesday, and I found myself itching to paint again ever since.  That desire started Friday, but we still had a guest so that had to be delayed until Saturday.  Then on Saturday, I remembered that I also had to work on binding the first of the "greats" (great nieces and nephew) quilts so I did that instead yesterday and part of today.  Once the first one had its binding completed, I headed for my paints forgetting to take a picture of Tuesday's work before starting again. 

What you see below is the result of two days of painting.

Sorry about the egg yolk sun peering over a wobbly horizon, but that will be rectified later.   I'm not going to make any more negative observations today (and boy, could I!) or positive ones, either (yes, I could make a few).   I'm wondering if you are thinking the same things I am.  So even though this is still rather early in the development of this painting, what are your reactions?  What do you like - if anything?  What do you think needs work?  It may help you to go back a few weeks to see what I've said about the subject as well as compare the earlier "painting drafts" with this one.
One thing I will say, and it's about the writing of the blog rather than this painting, it surprises me how little I now mind sharing work that is still in its infancy.  When I started blogging, every time I posted unfinished creations I thought I would sink under the desk to hide my head in embarrassment.  The work was so amateur, so raw, so un-tutored.  It still is (though I do see some progress) but I no longer mind putting myself "out there" for you to see.    Now I want your honest comments, and I realize that by publishing what I am doing, I see the work in a new light, also.  It distances me from it so I can view it - almost - as a stranger's work.  And I've gotten accustomed to doing it.  Writing about what I am thinking and trying to do, writing about my frustrations, failures, and triumphs, has developed my ability to think about the processes behind the scenes which helps me grow.

"That," as Martha Stewart would say, "is a good thing."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Beauty

Yesterday was the day where you were supposed to get some photographs from our trip to Madison, CT, but instead you had to read about my usual problem of too many projects and too little time.

So today as a way of wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and long weekend (I'll be back next Monday) I'm sending you a photograph of the beach in Madison at sundown.  Hold this picture in your mind's eye as something for which to be thankful - the beauty that is all around us. 

However, we don't have to travel far to find that beauty; it is in the faces of our friends and loved ones; hold them in your hearts. 

And for them I am truly thankful! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quilt Progress

How I wish that we were sitting in comfortable chairs sipping our beverages of choice so you could actually answer this question; How are your home-made holiday gifts coming along?  Did you take on too many things to make?  Are you feeling comfortable that - possibly because of the extra time between Thanksgiving and the holidays - everything will be completed in time and will be done to the best of your abilities?  Did you, like me, make a solemn oath that you were not going to make anything, and, again like me, break that oath?  How do you feel about that?
Ah well, you aren't sipping hot mulled cider in a rocking chair in my family room, so I guess I'll just tell you how I am doing.  I had said I would not put myself through the craziness of trying to make things this year, but as you know, I didn't stick to that resolve.  I found myself planning to make five quilts and various and sundry small items.  Most of the small sundries will fall by the wayside except for a few special ones, and at least four of the five quilts will be ready for the holidays.  Number four was completed about 15 minutes ago when I sewed the label onto the backing (also just pieced today).  Quilt #5 won't make it in time; it isn't terribly difficult, but I have complicated it by adding my own design ideas to it.  Even if I manage to piece it by Christmas, I seriously doubt that it could be quilted by then.  Besides I have to bind the ones that are finished (but I am going to machine stitch the bindings - both front and back!).
Maybe next year I won't make anything.  Or maybe I'll start as ME does in the spring.
Nah, I'll be saying the same things next year!  What about you?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trip to Connecticut

We are back from a weekend in Madison, CT to visit friends in Madison, CT.  There will be a lot to tell you and photographs to share but not tonight.  I spent too long unpacking, cleaning up e-mail, making both pleasurable and necessary phone calls to be able to write the entry I planned.
Bear with me and drop in tomorrow to read about the studios I visited of Connecticut artists and see a few photographs. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eureka Moment

Tonight ME and I went to Applique Club.  After we settled down to our various endeavors, I took out the piece I had taken with me to work on.  It's an applique block to put in my Farmer's Wife quilt, and it was the second time I had worked on this particular block.  The pattern is the traditional pineapple with a horseshoe-shaped wreath beneath the pineapple.  The first time I made it my pineapple was reproduction yellow, its leaves and wreath were green.  So very pedestrian!  I would have liked it better if the yellow and greens were prettier, but to my taste the colors I chose were too dark.  This time my background is red, the pineapple is light blue with squiggly red lines, its leaves are a similar blue with red polka dots, and the wreath will be a slightly lighter blue on blue.  Much more like something I would choose (well, I did, of course, but remember I also chose those dull greens and yellow).
As I worked on back-basting the crown of leaves, I thought about how I have struggled with this quilt from the very beginning.  It had started as a challenge to myself, and I have been happy with what I have learned and the experience I have gained by making the blocks from the Farmer's Wife book.  Then why am I still struggling to finish this quilt?  I have 135 blocks completed with only 9 to go so I should be working like crazy to get it done and on our bed.  As I stitched the answer became evident.
I don't like the applique blocks from the other book selected to provide them in order to add a new touch.  The patterns are too clunky for my taste.  What to do?  Yes, I could design my own, but I don't have the time or the inclination to put that kind of work into this project.  So up I got to roam the shop looking for a book that might have patterns that I would like.
There are so many books from which to choose!  One after another - too primitive, too elaborate, too large - no book of patterns was quite right.  Then ME suggested Lori Smith and Pat said Lori Smith.  "Lori Smith?" said I.  "But she only designs pieced quilts!"  Yes, I know better, but my brain had left the room for a minute.  Going to the wall of Lori Smith patterns, I found the perfect one and it makes a 6" x 6" block - hurray and hallelujah!  Birds, trees, and houses - if it had blocks with stars, I would have swooned so I guess it's just as well it doesn't.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Work Day

No photos or interesting discussions of creative doings today.  It was a work day at the Payton household. 
Yesterday we started the clean up for the winter in the back yard, and today we continued it.  I thought (foolish me!) that we would be able to get the rest of the yard and the gardens finished, but that was not to be.  Because of the hectic nature of our lives these past six months (wow), I not only did not plant any annuals in the spring, but I also did not cut down any spent blooms, withered stalks, or desiccated leaves in the fall.  I had do take care of that task before I could rake the fallen leaves out of the garden (where they were cheerfully congregating).  And, of course, that task was made more difficult because the leaves were gleefully hiding most of the plants.  It was sort of a which to take care of first - the chicken (plants) or the eggs (leaves)?
After two hours of work, I had finished taking care of the old plant material and had raked out half of the garden.  It was lunch time so I called it quits.  D had lunch with me, but then he went back out until four o'clock!  Don't even ask what he did because I'm not sure.  Let me just say that he is particular about preparing the yard for spring or for winter or for Wednesday or four o'clock.  He likes being outside. 
While he was continuing the outside chores, I spent the rest of my afternoon doing laundry that hadn't gotten done on Monday, picking up and trying to find places for some of the things we brought back from Dad's house, and washing/dusting some of the decorative items already here.
Not a lot of fun perhaps but a very satisfying day none the less.
Now about those bindings that need sewing on . . . . 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Boathouse Painting Day 2

Great day today.  Not only did I have painting class but I also was able to help D rake the back yard.  We didn't finish that task, but half the yard is finished.  Now we only have the other half and the gardens.  Only!
Today at painting I worked on a pen and ink which was not successful.  At least I know what went wrong so I can start over again with the thought that I'll be able to get it right.  Not only that, I know and understand why it went wrong so I can avoid that particular problem in the future.  Maybe.
Then I turned to the Boathouse painting.  As I had mentioned earlier, my job today was to use the lessons I learned when doing the pen and ink sketch.  I knew I had to get the perspective of the boathouse right, but since I knew what was wrong, I felt I had a good chance of correcting it.  The trees I had sort of slapped on last week had to go, and the new ideas from the ink sketch incorporated if I had the time (I didn't).  Here is the result of today's work:

The trees are still "ghosting", and the boathouse is still "floating in air" but those problems will be taken care in of as the painting continues. You will also see that I began putting in some more reflections which is actually rather silly because the water is by no means finished.  However, it gives me a sense of what I want to do (and what I shouldn't do).  The big rock on the left was pulled closer to the edge of the painting as Sharon pointed out there was too much empty space there. 
Frankly, if I were you, I'd look at this and think it all looks rather sickly so I hope you'll stick with me and watch to see what happens.  It will be interesting, I think, if it eventually matches my mental vision.  And you can always go back to the ink study to check on what I keep, delete, or just change.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Estate Clear Out

Saturday we spent the entire day in my husband's boyhood home.  We were lucky that the auctioneer was able to come in and take all the "high end" things AND that it didn't take all day as we thought it might.  Really, the best part of the experience was that Alice (D's sister) was able to drive in to help out as did Rebecca with her husband and son.  With all that help, we were able to sort through photographs and keep an eye on things.  It was rather interesting to watch the auctioneer and his crew.  After we were home again, the second auctioneer called and made an appointment to meet with us today (Monday).
Sunday I taught a class and had a bit of time once home to take care of some mundane chores.  My only disappointment was in missing the opportunity the mild weather would have given us to clean out the gardens in the back yard.  That evening both of us did little to nothing, and I didn't even write an entry.
Today it was off to D's parents' home for the second estate manager (I really don't know what their official titles are so I just use whatever seems appropriate).  Again, we were lucky as we both liked the man.  He whipped through the house, attics, and basement, but as fast as he went, he missed nothing.  He said there really wasn't anything left of much value.  We expected that so weren't disappointed.  The great thing is that he will take care of getting everything out of the house and leave it broom clean.  He'll sell whatever he can, donate other things that can be used, and dispose of whatever is left.  We won't have to be there (D really doesn't want to be for this part) which is another benefit. 
So as you can tell, things are moving along, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.   I just feel so relieved that there are people one can hire to do these things so we don't have to.    

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pen and Ink Study #2

Whew, yesterday I learned that I should sketch the scene for an intended painting before I begin painting it.  So today I did another pen and ink study of another landscape that I might someday turn into a painting.
AND of course, I learned another lesson.  This is pen and ink.  It is a study.  It is not intended to be a finished work that would merit framing and hanging on a wall.  Stop when the going is good (that's the lesson)!  Today's sketch was another of the photographs taken PDC (pre-digital cameras) of the road from the south end of the Vermont lake of which you have seen so much over the years.  It is a spectacular view of the shadowed road curving downhill, farm, lake, and mountain all in one fell swoop.
There's a BIG hint in that last sentence. I gave you the sequence of what you will see in the sketch from the bottom to the top. Don't be surprised if you have to work at it when you look at my sketch. I warn you now; it's over-worked:
On the positive side, I do think it would make a good painting!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wrong-Way Corrigan

When you were in elementary school, did your class receive copies of the Weekly Reader?  If you did, you may remember the story about Wrong-Way Corrigan, the pilot who, after being refused permission to fly to Ireland, "misread" his compass and flew to Ireland instead of California.  He flew east instead of west hence the moniker, "Wrong-Way".
Well, today I remembered that pilot as I did a pen and ink study for the Boathouse painting after I had already started the painting.  What an idiot!  Oh well, I learned several lessons.  The most important lesson was that doing a preliminary sketch is not only worthwhile; it is critical.  One sees things more clearly while doing the sketch because pen or pencil is more detailed than broad swathes of color spread liberally with brush or knife.  The hand learns how to draw shapes before trying it out with the less specific brush or knife.  When I was painting, I saw only the large shapes (and some not too well!) and had a general impression of color.  I knew what I thought would make a good composition but hadn't figured out some of the problems. 
The sketch might be difficult to understand because the reflections in the water are rendered inexpertly with ink and ink wash and the rest of the image is drawn in the same manner.  Differentiating the physical from the reflection will be hard.  But you will be able to get a better sense of the boathouse and its surroundings.  Here it is:

From now on whenever possible, I think I will sketch first and therefore avoid becoming a Wrong-Way Corrigan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Painting - Boathouse

Voting day is over.  D and I have just returned from the polls, and since I delivered him to the polls at 5:15 a.m., we are both quite tired.  The good news is that it was a very busy day with an exceptionally good turnout of voters.
For me it was also a successful day because I began a new painting.  This is another one of the lake from a photograph I took in the pre-digital days.  The subject is a boathouse that is built out over the lake on a footing of cement (no longer allowed!) and natural stone.  It presents several challenges for me, not the least of which is the very subdued palette.  View this photo of the painting as an initial sketch that just happens to be in oils.

My job will be to tweak the perspective which is close but not completely accurate and also to make that perspective believable to the viewer.
I think it will be fun watching how this painting progresses.
Well, it will be fun for me, at least!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voting Day

By the time you read this, I hope you will all have gone to the polls and have cast your ballot.  If you haven't been able to yet, be sure to get there!
D and I have been spending a lot of time getting ready for tomorrow.  He has to be there around 5:30 a.m. to work the polls, and I have to be up to get him there so I can have the car for the rest of the day.  That full day means that he spent a lot of today doing what he won't be able to do here tomorrow. 
After grocery shopping, I spent my time baking a Reuben loaf (bread on the outside with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on the inside) and an apple crisp for D to take to share.  The group with whom he works is a congenial one and they all have something with them to share.  It's such a long day and they have to be so focused, that it's important to have good food to eat on the quick breaks they allow themselves. 
Of course, I won't be able to vote when I drop him off, so I will stop in after painting and crazy quilt classes.  You can be sure I'll cast my vote so I'll have the right to complain if I want to later in the year. 
You know how it is; if you don't vote, you can't cast any blame or take any credit, and where's the fun in that?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Springfield Wool and Fiber Festival

Saturday's expedition was to the Wool and Fiber Festival in Springfield.  It was a great time; how could it not be with all those wonderful colors?  Since I am working so hard on taking charge of my stash, I was determined not to purchase any yarn.  Did I succeed?  For the most part.  I bought one kit ($15.00) that included a tiny amount of yard, beads, and a pattern. 
Then I stumbled upon (almost literally) a booth devoted to wool.  Not the spun-into- skeins-of-yarn type of wool but the woven-into-fabric kind. The kind that is used to make wool wall hangings, snowmen, and wool tiles. Oh joyous day! I worked very hard to limit myself to fabrics I knew I needed for the wool project after Wool Tile and did pretty well. I bought the one piece of orange and several different shades of brown that I will need for that project. I also threw in some different greens for leaves for something in the future - my irresponsible purchase. Here they are:

One large piece of orange, four rolls of brown (two not yet felted) and four strips of green.  Total price was only $34.00.  Amazing!  I was proud to have resisted temptation (mostly) and to have spent so little money.
Later in the day, I found a booth that sold buttons.  With D's help (yes, he actually choose and pulled out possibilities to show me), I bought buttons for wool work, buttons for quilts, and buttons for my crazy quilts.  Gone was my pride in saving money!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wool Tile

Disappointing but the wool tile is not yet finished and I wanted it as a gift for this weekend's visit to friends.  Fortunately, I don't really need it as I am providing dinner, but it would have been nice.  Here's what I have so far - pins and all: 
I was getting ready to stitch the two leaves on the left in place and was pulling the freezer paper off the "lobster claw" leaf when it came apart at the narrow point.  Although I was being careful, it must have been a weak area where the weave was loose.  You can't see it in the picture, but I'll have to re-cut that set of leaves.  The stems are pinned in place, but they do not extend over the leaves; they will end at the leaf's edge and start up again on the other side.  Since stitching sometimes pulls up the fabric, I wanted to be sure I had enough stem to actually meet the leaf at each edge so I cut them extra long.
In the above photo you can see how I stitched the skinny stems and veins of the big maple leaf.  It's the detached fly stitch, and I like the way it looks - except for the place where I angled the stitches to go up the veins.  It seemed like a good idea, but it isn't completely successful. 
What do you think?  Is it the angle?  Or doesn't it bother you?