Saturday, April 17, 2021

A Walk on the Bay Trail

We are finally warming up (again). I feel like I've said this before only to have our weather flip and bundling up weather return. Well, at least the winds have died down, which were making what otherwise would probably have felt comfortably warm into shivering ones. At any rate, I had an errand to run yesterday and made that easy side trip to the Pend Orielle Bay Trail for a change of scenery.

And it was glorious! Cool enough by the water to still need a light sweatshirt against a slight breeze in the shadows but still quite wonderful. I don't usually go to this trail until later in the season so I was pleased to find it in great shape, no muddy patches to worry about, no fallen trees or branches across it. The volunteers who tend to this trail work hard to keep it safe and open. And there was something quite special about gazing up through the branches at the tall tall cottonwoods before they have leafed out.

I had hoped to see some wildflowers along the way, but alas, I am either too early or too late. But there were cedar boughs next to the trail that caught my attention. They seemed so thick and heavy with needles.

There are indicators that tell me when I've walked to the half-way mark of the shortest distance I go on this trail, and since I've been a bit short on physical energy of late, I questioned if I could even do that over the slightly uneven terrain. But I hit that mark and wanted to keep going, felt fit enough to keep going. And so I did, ending up putting in half again as far as I'd intended. I could have kept going I think, but one has to remember about that return trip, will I run out of steam? Unsure of my stamina, I worried needless about how I would fare getting back to the car. The whole experience woke me up, excited my senses, got me thinking of the next trail to check out as our good weather is supposed to last into next week at least. All this as I should have been worried about the pollen count. Well, pollen count be damned, and I experienced no ill affects. Well, I AM pumped full of antihistamines!



Saturday, April 10, 2021

Still Off The Wagon . . .

, , , or too many irons in the fire? I couldn't manage to crawl back onto the "finish" wagon to work on either Rhapsody or the baby quilt this past week. Even when there was a bit of time for the hand quilting, I couldn't convince myself to sit down at it. And when upstairs, instead of hanging a left into the studio, I hung a right into the office and spent time on the computer. Too much time deciding on a new printer model and then trying to track down where I could buy what I'd decided on. And then there were videos to watch. You remember my forays into Sketchbook Revival two years running I'm sure. Last year I even made the sketchbook I'd be using for it, thickening it up with enough signatures to carry me over into 2021. But at the start of this year, I determined I was not going to take on new projects, and I definitely was not going to spend hours with the Sketchbook Revival people, even though I'd found a lot of useful and fun stuff through them. Nope, not going to do it when I have so many other things I want to finish. By the time the sign-up e-mail arrived, I'd started to lose my resolve. Convinced myself it wouldn't hurt to register just in case, check out what was being offered, not necessarily pass up this free opportunity. So when it actually started, I just let the e-mails pile up without even opening them. Doing other things, focus elsewhere. But this is a limited time offer. After the last session, access to the videos remain for a few weeks and there I was, succumbing again, spending time at the end of the day going through a few videos, racing to get them in before they were gone.

I've mostly been taking notes as I watch the videos, leaving blank pages to do the actual exercises later, unless it's something that's quick and doesn't require anything other than a pen or pencil. But this particular watercolor session with Trupti Karjinni from India was longer than most and past experience has shown me it's better to actually work along with the instructor than just take notes when it comes to watercolor. So I saved it for today when I felt I had a bigger block of time. I only have multi-media paper in my sketchbook so I know my results would have been better on watercolor paper, but she had some really good tips and it was useful to paint along with her even on the "wrong" kind of paper.

As long as I was in there and had some things out, I decided to do a little from Helen Welles' session on seeking inspiration from outside. Mark making is big with a lot of artists but I've been slow to warm to it, and Helen's session was half mark making (using things you collected on a walk) and half working with the results. Sigh . . . wasn't sure about doing it at all, at least not with twigs and pine cones like she did. But I ended up at city beach yesterday for my walk and danged if I didn't find myself intrigued by a branch with needles and some small pine cones blown off the trees in a recent windstorm. Well, why not? It's all supposed to be about being curious and maybe finding something you can bring into your regular practice.

The mark making is done with a bit of diluted ink onto printer paper, and while Helen used black, I wanted to try my brown and green inks. Too diluted I think but they still worked. It would be easy to do dozens of pages of these, seeing what kind of marks a twig, those needles and even a pine cone would make, but I was careful to limit the number of papers. Even with these few, I quickly sensed that I'm more drawn to curved lines than straight, which may be valuable information. And that in spite of my love of those two colors of ink, I want to do some more pages with black.

If I keep up at this pace, I should get through the videos before they disappear. When I'll actually do all of the exercises is unclear, but I'm sure I'll get to it. Maybe add it to my list of things to finish . . . :-)

From yesterday's walk at city beach. Still very cold with brisk winds & even some flurries today!


Saturday, April 03, 2021

Some Thoughts In Lieu of Progress


I really fell off the daily progress wagon this past week, only getting in a couple of days at the hand quilting and none at completing the piecing on the baby quilt. I'm reminding myself that an occasional break, for whatever reason, is not inherently bad as long as it doesn't become a habit. But it does mean I don't have much of my own work to share. I did run across a few things from other places I thought might amuse you or give you pause, like the color chart above. Every April Fool's Day, The Dharma Trading Company puts out a truly humorous newsletter that is so close to believable it would be easy to be taken in by it. Mixed in with "the catalog audio book", "mystery jar sale (Frankly we don't know what's in them and we're a little scared to find out!)" and "how to ruin your pool - mega marbling" was this 2020 inspired spring tones chart which I think they could probably successfully market. My favorite is dumpster fire orange!

Since I didn't finish piecing the baby quilt top, let alone piece a backing, I've not done any testing of that Warm and Natural Warm and Plush batting. I did take a close look at the packaging and was stunned to see "New - Available For A Limited Time Only!" So you may not want to wait for my appraisal of it but find a source and order some before it is gone. If there's enough positive feedback - i.e. sales - I suppose they would continue to offer it but you never can tell.

So while I was doing little on my  own "finish it" projects, I ran across a quotation from a letter Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother that I was unfamiliar with, or if I'd seen it before, I'd forgotten about it. But it is one that made me feel a bit better about my always slow pace with my quilting and art:

"...I must carry on working in calm and serenity, as regularly and concentratedly as possible, as succinctly as possible. I’m concerned with the world only in that I have a certain obligation and duty, as it were — because I’ve walked the earth for 30 years — to leave a certain souvenir in the form of drawings or paintings in gratitude. Not done to please some movement or other, but in which an honest human feeling is expressed. Thus this work is the goal…"

And then there's this which I found on Pat Denino's blog. She and I got to know one another on the internet years ago through our interest in art quilting. Pat also spent many years as an expert seamstress in alterations which explains her scrap stash she refers to here:

 "...I thought about my scrap pile, thinking a lot of people probably feel like they're just unwanted scraps. Depression does that. But I didn't throw my scraps away. If I were God and did to people what Pat does to fabric scraps, it would go something like this: I see you. You've been hidden away long enough. Let's get you out in the fresh air, trim you up a bit, and set you in a special place with some others so that you can all shine! Whatever you might have been, whatever you thought you were, well, now you're a piece of art!"

As one who has always saved her scraps, both from the days when I made garments and then as I made quilts, I think I've always felt this way about my scraps, even if I didn't express it this way. Reading this makes me want to dive into my scraps again! But how wonderful, especially on this eve of Easter, to envision that God might think of us in the same way we think of our fabric scraps, unwilling to toss them out but more than willing to give them new life. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Batting


I'm arranging the rectangles in the last 3 strips of the Kaffe inspired strip quilt for baby Jesse Charm. For several reasons, I've generally used cotton or cotton/poly batting in quilts for babies but in the end am a little disappointed in how thin and flat they turn out, even after washing. So I perked up when I saw this Warm & Plush batting in a Connecting Threads catalog. Compared to the other Warm Company battings on the page, it looks to be twice as thick. Granted, I still have a fairly big stash of batting at my disposal so I didn't necessarily need to buy more just for this quilt, but my curiosity was piqued. I checked with my local quilt shop down the street who wasn't familiar with it but said they'd order it for me - perfect, as I really want to spend my money locally when I can and keep this shop going - the owner has done such a fantastic job of building it up and surviving even through the covid shutdown thanks to the loyal customer base. The batting arrived this week and I will soon be testing it out. Have any of my readers used this in a quilt?

Saturday, March 20, 2021

How's Your Memory?


I have a cedar chest that belonged to my grandmother. After she died, my mother brought it back and told me it was my hope chest, filled with things from my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration and other family heirlooms. I think I was about 7 when all this happened, and for many years it was a sort of ritual to open the chest and remove each item for inspection before returning it to the chest. More a memory chest than a hope chest. Over the years I've moved some of the items to more visible daily spaces and some I shared with my brothers or got rid of altogether, making room to store some of my own memories I had no place else to put. I was searching in it the other day for the box where I kept cards and ticket stubs and other ephemera from my marriage when I spotted this box, a Made In Oregon box, and had no idea what might be in it.

Whether the two are truly connected, my ability to located where I'd put or stored pretty much everything I owned started to fail me after my husband died. We moved a lot and I suppose part of my memory system was tied to the fact that at each new location, I could store things similarly to the last place. Many boxes and shopping bags never even got unpacked from one place to the next. That started to shift with my first new place on my own which was quite different, I exchanged shopping bags and boxes for the now ubiquitous plastic bins, and few if any boxes remained unpacked. Suddenly there were so many things I could no longer put my finger on, and I've spent many frustrating hours rifling through boxes, drawers and bins looking for things that I just KNOW have to be in a particular spot, yet are not. Are you experiencing the same thing as time goes by? It's particularly annoying to me since I've always thought of myself as a fairly organized person.


I was truly surprised then to open this box and discover sand dollars! We lived for 3 years "behind the second dune" in Westport WA, taking daily walks with the dogs down to the ocean's shore where I collected so many of these, fascinated by the markings. Not wanting to take them from the careful packing, I moved a few aside to see that there were several layers of these.

A peek under the packing on the other end revealed other kinds of shells I had gathered over those three years. I didn't know what I'd do with them, only speculating how I might add them to a quilt. Why I decided that the cedar chest was a good place to put them I have no idea, except maybe that there was room and it would be a very safe place where they would not get broken.


I've actually been thinking about them for awhile, ever since I saw this idea in the photo above for an easy way to add color to ribbed shells with a Sharpie marker. But I was very sure they were in a shoebox in the last two moving boxes still in the garage untouched. Surprise! They were closer than I thought. I'm pretty sure my rock collection is in one of those boxes though, although now I'm not so sure. Just can't trust my memory anymore, apparently.

By the way, today is National Quilting Day, and I have been busy piecing more strips of the Kaffe inspired baby quilt. With sections sewn together, I've been able to move to the design wall and work over the top of what's on it to help me in arranging my lozenge rectangles. It's working out well. What are you working on to celebrate National Quilting Day?

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Hand Quilting Progress


I've finished the hand quilting around the applique pieces of Rhapsody. I'll be winning no awards for even stitches but with a few exceptions, the eggshell thread blends right into the background fabric so only very close inspection would reveal the inconsistencies.


Now on to the cross-hatching, where I will use masking tape as my guide. I'm having second thoughts about adding this as I now realize how little open space there is for adding it except beyond the central design. Maybe just some echoing would have been a better choice, but I feel committed to this and have carried on.


I thought I would share with you the hoop I am using, my pride and joy: The Grace Hoop - Squared Polymer Pro. I don't exactly remember how I became familiar with The Grace Company, probably through an ad in a quilting magazine, but back in the 1980's I offered to hand quilt the queen size top my mother-in-law had made for one of her daughters. It was the part of the project she dreaded most while I was finding it difficult to get tops made for quilting, the part of the process I most liked. So suddenly I had a quilt to quilt and her hoop on a stand to do it with. It was a rickety affair with the classic round hoop but it was better than what I had on hand. I so enjoyed the process that when we fell into a large monetary gift to split, I opted to use mine for a full-size quilting frame, with the Grace Company's expensive, heavy duty well-made model with unique design features my first choice. And of course, I also opted for the one that could handle up to a king size quilt because, you know, I might regret it if I chose a smaller size. I was not disappointed, and quilted quite a few quilts of varying sizes on this sturdy frame that did not require you to baste your quilt before loading it onto the frame (did I not say it had some unique features?

The 3-rail system allows all 3 layers to be attached to the front bar, the other end of the backing to the second bar and the other end of the top to the 3rd bar while the batting hangs free. Each bar rolls independently to maintain even tension and smoothing, no basting required.
 

That frame got moved many times (being easy to break down into packable pieces), once while I was in the middle of quilting a queen-size quilt (it turned out to be relatively easy to roll the quilt on the three bars once the supporting legs were removed and a startled moving man figured out how to wrap it all in plastic and place it in the truck so that precious bundle would not be damaged), but once I finished that last queen, I was doing more machine quilting of any large projects and saving the hand quilting for smaller ones. I got very fond of my Q-Snap portable square frame. Then my husband died, I moved into a townhouse rental, and found myself with no place to set up the big frame even if I wanted to. I eventually sold it to my quilting friend and neighbor who was keen to have a full size frame and I started looking at other options that would solve the limitations I found myself struggling with using the Q-Snap frame.


Enter the Grace Company once again, as I eyed their latest product sporting more original design innovations incorporated into a quilting hoop on a stand. First of all, a square rather than round hoop, which makes tons of sense, as I'd discovered using the Q-Snap frame. Then it was the material the hoop was made out of, a sturdy polymer with no chance of staining a quilt left in it too long. The stand itself is Baltic Birch plywood, nothing rickety about those hefty parts.

 

But what really cinched it for me, made me think of this as the Cadillac of quilting frames, is this ball mechanism at the base of the hoop. Not only can you turn the hoop as you would a steering wheel, but you can angle it in all directions to get it positioned perfectly for your stitching style. (By the way, those strings of selvage are a tip I ran across for when quilting a large quilt. They allow you to gather up all that quilt beyond the hoop to keep it in check and off the floor.)

The arm that the hoop is attached to also adjusts up and down to accommodate different chair heights you might be sitting in or even your own body height. So easy to customize the quilting area to your needs.


Also included with the hoop are these weighted bars, just in case you need to quilt out to an edge and don't have enough quilt for the hoop to grab onto. I've never used these as I always leave a generous bit of batting and backing beyond the quilt top, but what a nifty idea just in case.


And as if all this weren't enough, the stand is designed to fold up smaller for storage. I even read about one quilter who used this feature so she could bring her hoop to guild when she wanted to work on something there. This is a really well-thought out design. Basically, I just can't say enough good things about the Grace Company and their product.

So I popped into their website thinking I could link to some of these products and features only to find they are now all about machine frames and the machines that sit on them, not a wood product in sight. Well, I suppose that IS the market now, not that many hand quilters out there looking for quality wood frames and hoops. They do sell a few hand quilting items, but not the beautiful wood ones that served/serve me so well. It all made me a bit sad. On the other hand, I'm sure everything they produce and sell now is of very good quality in order to maintain the name they built up starting over 30 years ago.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Aha!

Fiddle fiddle. Shift. Replace. I was getting nowhere on the arrangement of rectangles for the lozenge. Still confused, still questioning, still cutting a few more from my pinks. So I decided to set that aside and work on the partial lozenges at the top and bottom of the quilt. Suddenly, everything fell into place. I went back to the full lozenge, made a few adjustments and was happy. Moved on to arranging rectangles in the strips that make up the partial lozenges on the side. Going like clockwork. No reason to dilly dally, so started sewing pieces into strips, filling in with the background fabric rectangles. So what you see here is 5 strips on the right completely sewn together and 3 strips ready to attach to each other and the group on the right. Progress! And I'm really happy with the way it is looking. Apologies for the uneven lighting and the camera that insists on making those dark pink rectangles look darker and stand out more than they really do. Now I'm enjoying the process and the results. This will be a happy quilt!

BTW, I'm not concerned about having rectangles left over (and there will be quite a few I think) because I have a plan for the backing which will include them.