Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Peaks and Valleys

So here's my sad tale. At least, I think it's sad. Life is full of peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and quilting is no different. No sooner do you have a success and are riding on a confident high than the tides turn and you are sunk down frustrated and wondering what happened. I'd finished quilting the fat quarter quilt top inside of the borders, an accomplishment in itself. I'd been pleased that I got faster and better the more of it I quilted. Now "all" I had left were the borders, and once I picked out the thread, it would be easy and go quickly because I'd be quilting around the paisley shapes in the fabric print. I was days away from being able to add the binding and toss it on my bed.

My first session quickly showed I'd slid off that peak of confidence and was struggling to quilt even a small area. I'd chosen a dark thread for the bobbin to match the top thread, wary of it pulling to the top and showing if it was a lighter thread to match the lighter panels of the backing. I'd chosen the dark thread for on top because I didn't want it to pull the eye away from the metallic gold outlining the printed paisleys. The two threads were a great match for both the border fabric and the dark blue panels on the back. I thought I'd be able to see where I had stitched as I moved around the design, but I couldn't. And when I checked to see what was going on with the thread on the back, it not only glared at me on top of the tan fabric but showed tension problems I'd not had with the thread I'd quilted the rest of the quilt with. I quit in frustration and wouldn't face it all week as if I was punishing the quilt for misbehaving! So much for my increased machine quilting skills and confidence.

I did eventually sit down with it again, with an idea for a different approach and a possible solution for the tension issues (I'd changed to a slightly heavier thread without changing to a bigger needle so switching out the needle appeared to help a lot). I'm still not crazy about how the outlining of the fabric design looks on the back and is so blatant with that dark thread, but at least I'm moving over the border with a bit more ease. It's slow going even so and will take probably twice as long as I projected. I may have to take it out of the machine and set it aside after all because I now have a December deadline for the exhibit I knew was coming up sometime before the end of the year. I have several things mostly done but nothing ready to go. I'll give it another week and then I'll have to switch gears.

So that's my sad story. But I'm bouncing back!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Another Week of #INKtober Shoes

A friend who follows me on Facebook as well as here asked yesterday if my shoe collection ever ends. Eventually it will, but at the moment, it doesn't look like that will happen before the end of the month. I'm noticing trends, themes, and buying habits that are not confined to shoes alone.

And although I had hoped to get quicker with my sketching as time went on, I only appear to be taking more time. I can't stop adding in details - the more I look, the more I see. Actually, it's eating into the time I might otherwise spend at the machine. I'm not minding that too much (it's another story I'll share later), but it does influence which shoe I choose each day, trying to go for the simpler ones in hopes I'll finish sooner and have time for the studio. So far, not happening. And there's one shoe in particular I keep putting off drawing because of all its detail. My days get away from me somehow, but I still manage to get a shoe or pair of shoes sketched each of them.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

A week of #INKtober Shoes

Those last two hikes I shared took an unexpected toll on my body so there's been no work at the sewing machine. But I HAVE been keeping up with drawing a shoe or pair of shoes each day of the first week of the INKtober challenge. Just like I thought my choice of cups and mugs last year would be easy to whip out (and were not), I'm finding the shoes I thought would be quick and easy are demanding much more focused observation and addition of details. Some days I felt I was spending way too long adding everything in. A few days I felt short on time so I sketched just one shoe of the pair. I'm struggling to show value and changes in texture within the limitation of a few colors of ink and my poor hatching skills. Well, it IS a challenge after all. Click on any photo for a larger version if you are interested in the narrative and type of pen and ink.

I've been posting daily on Facebook as an accountability prod and realize they may be revealing more about me than it occurred to me they might. The shoes themselves don't embarrass me, as they are all ones that I wear around other people so what's there to be embarrassed about? It's more how long I've had some of them around and how many there are. Well, as the month wears on, perhaps you'll see what I mean. I suppose it's one thing to wear shoes as one goes about one's daily business with few people taking notice or commenting, but something else to put each out on display and say, "Here, look at my shoes!" No no, I'm putting them on display and saying, "Here, look at my sketching!" And indeed, people are looking and seem to like my choice of subject, even if they think it odd. Some are accusing me of being a serial shoe sketcher, in jest of course, and I fire back that I've been a serial mug sketcher too. Ahh, the fun of sharing!  

Monday, October 02, 2017

Another Day In Paradise

Well, at least MY idea of paradise. Friday was to be our last sunny day in the 70's before another cold front swept through bringing a week of cooler temps and rain. So it was off to the woods again to hike an unexplored trail that's been on my list for awhile. Gold Hill is directly across the lake from Sandpoint, so a hop, skip and a jump away. In fact, we sailed along it on my birthday cruise. There'd be no babbling brooks this time but the promise of a viewpoint, so I traded my sketchbook for a camera.

The drive along Bottle Bay Road was a bit harrowing - a narrow winding road without shoulders or painted center line and few guardrails with speed limits between 25 and 35 mph. I really wanted to take glances of the lake but didn't dare take my eyes off the road. The locals who live along this stretch know the road like the back of their hands and one impatient truck roared by me without a pause. It occurred to me that when I was young, most main roads were just like this one. I was very relieved to pull into the trailhead parking lot after almost 5 miles of this. I gathered all my gear and headed up the mountain, the moderate-rated trail immediately showing me this was going to be a true hike.

The trail was a steady ascent zigzagging its way up through the quiet and shadowy woods, the southern exposure getting little direct sun. For the most part it was soft packed dirt but occasionally there'd be outcroppings of rocks and exposed tree roots. The trail is rated most difficult for Mountain Bikes and I'm thinking this sort of thing along with the incline are some of the reasons why. I was hoping there'd be none on the trail this day as I'd had a near collision with a couple of kids on bikes on a different trail.

The climb would be even steeper if not for the switchbacks allowing the trail to go back and forth across the face of the hill. I would not want to be on a bike heading down and through these sharp changes in direction. But that's just me. I did actually pass two bikers on the way up, let them know with a laugh that I thought they were crazy, but they were not kids seeing how fast they could go. They were taking it slow and steady and letting me know how many of them to expect as they were fairly spaced out.

Because of the relatively moderate incline, I could usually see where the trail would cross above me and where I had just been. At one point I heard voices and looked up to see two twenty-somethings running down the trail above me, water bottles in hand. Too much energy, I told them as they passed.

I didn't do much looking or any picture taking on the way up, focused on getting up to the first observation bench which I estimated would be a little more than a mile along the trail. I haven't done this strenuous of a hike in quite a while and this was a test of my strength and stamina. I kept checking now and then to see if I could spot the lake through the trees but they were fairly dense. I'd have to wait for that viewpoint if I could make it.

And I did, with this as my reward. Darn trees. I'm sure when this resting spot was put in on the trail, these trees were not blocking the view. I've seen this at other viewpoints too, where the forest has grown up to block the view. Still, it was a pretty nice spot.

Here's a zoomed-in shot. This is looking northeast of Sandpoint where the Pack River drains into the lake forming a delta rife with wildlife.

The bench has a dedication plaque to someone I don't know. But I took courage from it's message: 'He inspired us all to stay focused on our dreams." Well, that's what I was doing here, wasn't it, fulfilling one of my dreams of exploring in the surrounding woods? While I sat taking a break, taking in the view and snapping a few pics, a  young couple arrived on their way up. I asked if he'd been up the trail before to see if I could get an idea of how much farther it was to the next bench and he said, oh yes, he'd been up the trail many times but not for quite a few years. She was quick to add that this was her first time. Couldn't help but think, ahhh young love; the boy wanted to show his girlfriend or maybe wife where he'd spent his youth. They were full of energy and headed on up the trail. I didn't feel very worn out so I decided to go on up the trail too, at least for a little bit. I've always been lured by what might be around the next corner if I just went a little bit farther. But I knew I didn't have it in me to make the next viewpoint, and checking the time knew I needed to head back down.

Now that I didn't have to expend so much energy, I could look around me more and take a few pictures. There were lots of granite boulders, some quite large, which may or may not have been left by the ice-age floods.

And because of the shadiness, most of these were covered in moss and interesting lichens.

And I was reminded again of my fascination with rock layers turned on end, a sight I grew up with in these north Idaho mountains. This one is not as extreme as many in the area.

There were more birches and aspens mixed with the spruce, pine and cedar than I expected, one startling me with the silent drop of a single yellow leaf beside me. I was more startled that I'd missed this richly colored trunk on the way up.

And of course, if it is cool and damp there will be ferns. I didn't notice until I was reviewing my photos at home that these two are slightly different. They seemed to insist that I will sketch the simpler of the two once home and perhaps even thread sketch it. I've not really been a fern person in my textile work but for some reason, studying the symmetry in a single frond reminded me of a Zentangle design I'd liked and why not work with this?

I had dawdled quite a bit on the way down, taking much longer than I had anticipated, but finally the parking lot came into view.

And I'd be heading back down that narrow winding road, the one with the blind curve preceded with a warning sign of "road narrows" (even narrower than what I've been white knuckling???) and the bit of guardrail looking as if it's sliding down the embankment into the lake. I'm not sure I want to brave that road again just to see if I can make it farther up the hill next time. I can access the top of the trail by a different road which may not be as harrowing and will provide me with a spectacular view from the start.   

Sunday, October 01, 2017


Keeping it simple on October's pocket calendar spread which gave me a light and airy page that does not speak to traditional fall colors. The leaves have barely started turning color here, so it is just as well. Quick! What do you call a two-color palette? Yeah, I couldn't remember either, but I found it fun to limit myself to just green (two shades) and yellow. Maybe there isn't a term for it, but instead a term for where those two colors lie on the color wheel. Without purposely thinking about it, I've chosen an analogous scheme which is two colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Can you spot the motif that tested where the color would go and made me change my mind about that?

It's also time for INKtober again, that challenge to draw something with pen and ink each day of October. Last year I decided to draw all my cups and mugs but got a late start. This year I remembered it was coming up and have settled on drawing my shoes and boots. Time to get the gel pens and fountain pens out for some daily exercise! Why not join me? The rules are simple and there's even an official list of daily prompts if, unlike me, you are at a loss as to what to draw. Visit the official INKtober site at  for everything you need to know about INKtober plus a great review of Jake's favorite pens.

To see my sketches from last year, visit these posts:


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Afternoon Off From the Daily Grind

Mother Nature appears to be apologizing this week for the way our summer went. Too beautiful of a day, too perfect the temperature not to spend time out in it. I made plans to drive down to Round Lake State Park and walk the trail to the bridge crossing the little creek that is the outflow of the lake. I've been feeling a great need to sit by a babbling brook as it were, and I knew this was just the spot.

Plenty of other things I could and even should have been doing instead, and I couldn't help but feel I was flipping off the world in general as I headed down the trail. Screw responsible behavior, screw all the crises demanding our attention every time we turn on the tv or computer. I need to sit in the stillness of the woods by a creek that would soothingly talk to me.

I didn't take a camera but I did take a sketchbook, thinking I'd want to sketch that bridge. But once there, the bridge held no interest. Instead, I sat on the trail marker on the other side of the bridge where I could hear the water as it made its way through shallow areas on the right and a bit of damming from some branches on the left. In between, the water moved slowly and smoothly enough to create the most perfect reflections of the trees and ferns, a breeze occasionally causing the slightest of ripples. It was shady but not too cool, and I listened to that water, gazed rapt into those reflections for some time. I then wandered off the trail up and down the creek for short distances before feeling I'd soaked up enough of what I needed and headed back to the car.

And once there, I really wasn't ready to head home yet. Instead, I took a seat in one of the picnic shelters and sketched in pencil one of two docks where people were enjoying a little fishing while soaking up the sun. What a lovely afternoon... 


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Another Kindness

All I did was comment positively on a blog post on Vintage Page Designs. I'm always interested in ideas for how to use up bits and pieces, be they fabric or paper or ribbon or whatever, and that is what this post was about. To my surprise, Ali Manning contacted me and offered to send me one of the little notebooks shown in her blog post. And it arrived this week, along with a a notecard of handmade paper, autumn leaves embedded therein.

How generous of Ali, and how inspirational for me to hold these two items in my hand, to study and to enjoy. Thank you Ali. You are not only talented but gracious and generous.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A Sucker for Wispy Clouds

There was an eclipse back in August, and though I was theoretically within driving distance of a place with 100% totality, I was happy enough to stay at home and remember another eclipse experience back in the '70's. I was happier still when I learned that my area was still in the path of the eclipse at 90%. That seemed sufficient to me at this point in my life. I didn't buy eclipse glasses, I didn't make a pinhole viewer. There'd be plenty of pictures posted on line to view. I just wanted to sit outside on my deck and experience what else happens in an eclipse when you're not staring at the sun and jostling with crowds chattering and oohing and aahing. Yes, I am becoming quite the anti-social grumpy old lady.

It did not get as dark as I thought it would, but it was a very eerie sort of darkening that left me squinting and wondering what was wrong with my eyes until I realized the sun was nearing that 90% totality. Then at 90% it felt more like I had donned my sunglasses, and the air got chill. It is nothing like when the sun is obscured by a passing cloud. It does not get shady or shadowy, nor even dusky like when the sun sets. It just dims in a very unnatural way while errant rays still light up the surroundings.

I admit to feeling a little let down when I realized the moon's shadow was moving on. After all the hype in the run-up to this event, my experience, while interesting, was a little ho hum, nothing to write about, not much to even talk about, certainly no photos to share. The day continued rather uneventfully, me getting back to the ordinary things I do each day. Returning from my evening walk, sun having just gone behind the mountain, I chanced to look up at a sky now filled with wispy clouds. Now this is worth grabbing my camera for, I thought, and so I did. I took pictures from all angles, zoomed in and zoomed out. I turned a circle in my looking and snapping, and by the time I'd circled back to my first view, the clouds had changed, as they do, and I snapped some more. I stood outside for a long time watching the show, just white wispy clouds and me, not even any sunset colors tinging them, and thought, "This is every bit as good, maybe better, than watching that eclipse.

And I nearly forgot to share them with you.

Sandpoint with the dark purple rating - that's me

Seeing them again is a comfort on the second day of being socked in by smoke blowing in from major forest fires to the east. Yesterday my town's air quality was the worst in the country, and that's saying something where so many areas are dealing with the highest ratings of "hazardous" which is itself the top of the chart, kind of Defcon 1. I can't see the mountain across from me, which is probably 2 miles away. It looks like heavy fog or low clouds, but take one step outside and the breath you take is of acrid smoke. I could even smell the smoke inside the house yesterday when I got up, and that was with no windows or doors open, just what the winds were forcing through the cracks. With little wind today, I can see it lingering between the pines behind my development like mist. Although I know I am in no immediate danger from a fire, and as long as I stay inside, no immediate danger to my health, it still makes me uneasy to look out the window and see nothing has changed. And that we still have to wait another day until the change in weather patterns shifts the winds once more and clears some of this out.

My corner of the world. From

In reality though, the entire west is inundated with fires and the air quality in the states surrounding mine whose fires are responsible for most of my smoke is just as bad. A line from a certain song keeps playing in my head - any way the wind blows - because it really is true that we can get more smoke no matter which way the wind is coming from. This problem extends south into California as well. Looking at the map, one can see nowhere to go to escape it. Like the other areas of our country dealing with flooding and hurricanes, it's hard to know where safe shelter might be. So we hunker down where we are, unless told to evacuate, hope for the best, and wait for the weather to change.

And perhaps look at pictures of clouds from a clearer day, clouds which I no longer wonder how I could render in my fiber pieces. These ethereal ones cannot be properly captured there. These wispy clouds must always fly free.