Friday, July 31, 2020

The Peace Quilt

background & applique panels pinned & ready for cutting
It's the last day of July and I really thought this quilt would be finished by now. Actually, I thought I could complete it during the week bracketed by the anniversaries of my husband's death and our wedding day. I usually pick a special project to concentrate on while I isolate myself in contemplation and memories, but isolation has become a way of life lately giving the week a different feel. And then I entered a war with my smoke alarms that took up my sewing time several days that week. Best laid plans, as they say, but at least I got a start on it. Above you see the pattern marked out ready for cutting. I taped the large pattern to my patio door glass and added the dark fabric over it. I could just make out the pattern and there were only a few misguided lines.

The pattern presents 3 approaches to this two panel applique quilt: hand applique (which was tempting but I didn't want to spend the time), raw edge applique (also tempting but I wasn't sure the cut-away pieces would be usable on a second quilt) and fusible applique (tempting because it might be the quickest and give me the best leftover pieces). After several nights of mulling before dropping off to sleep, fusing won out. This whole cloth cutaway method (rather than cutting out the individual motifs and arranging on a background) is one I am familiar with through my lessons learning Baltimore Album block techniques but I've not tried it with anything but hand applique. Of course, one can't go straight to fusing but the applique panel does get fusible ironed to the back of it before it is layered and pinned to the background fabric. This took more nights of mulling - which fusible to use - and I concluded that Misty Fuse was my best bet. Once again, I found myself muttering about how much I hate working with Misty Fuse. I really do, although I keep finding good reasons to use it in some circumstances instead of my more favored Steam-A-Seam Light. Pins go in the sections that will remain as applique motifs; care must be taken not to get confused about what stays and what goes. I did anticipate how fussy getting the fusible on would be, but I did not anticipate how fussy and time consuming the cutting would be. It took several days.

I could use small applique scissors for cutting curved lines but I didn't trust I could accurately cut the straight lines with it. It had been difficult to trace those lines off the pattern. I'd run across that nifty tool for use sewing half square triangles that I couldn't find when I needed it (the long narrow yellow thing at the top) and found it was the exact width of those long straight "strips". Cutting along either side of that tool with a rotary cutter was a great help. Slipped between the background and top panel, a small cutting mat (just below the small ruler) kept from cutting into the background fabric.

Accidental slit ready for Misty Fuse patch

Well, almost. When I was all done cutting away the excess, using a Clover mini-iron to tack the applique as I went, and was inspecting my work, a small gap appeared next to one of those rectangles in the upper left. Apparently I'd gotten too exuberant after lining up a ruler to make sure the rectangles' ends were even with each other and went beyond the little cutting mat in this one place. When I gave the piece its final fuse, the edge was slightly caught under the end of the rectangle but I don't trust it to stay there or not to fray during the next step so I will fuse a patch over it on the back.

There have been additional nights of mulling before dropping off to sleep over that next step. If I had used Steam-A-Seam, I would not have to worry about finishing the raw edges. But with Misty Fuse, one does. Satin stitch is the most obvious remedy but that doesn't keep me from considering other stitches. And then of course, what color thread, what kind? And since there is fusible between the layers, will I need a stabilizer underneath to keep things from drawing up? Well, only one way to know, and that is with a sample and the auditioning of threads. And as long as I'm going there, I may as well start thinking about the threads I'll use for quilting and how it will be quilted. So here are some candidates for both: two old Sulky Ultra Twists (no longer available) and one Superior Threads polyester twist (Ultra Twists' replacement), and a polyneon. You'd think after all these years I'd quit deluding myself that ANY quilting project would be simple, straightforward and quick.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Floral Update

Jan in Wyoming encouraged me to share if I followed up on that mysterious floral tangle from the last post. In case you missed it, BJ Parady chimed in with some information gleaned from her botany background:
So, if you want the scientific explanation of what's going on, the daisy is a member of the Composite family of plants. So called because each 'flower' is actually a composite of many flowers forming the structure. Usually there are two types of flowers--the ones on the rays and the ones forming the center. They often are ready for fertilization at different times and by different means (some self fertilize, others depend on insects). Now this particular bloom may have been so hybridized that it's actually sterile, or that the seeds won't grow 'true'.
I decided not to deadhead that particular bloom to see what might happen. As the petals wilted and drooped around the stem, the center became a perfect ball and that tangle began to straighten out.

I think I can see seeds in those tubes. One just has to be patient I guess.

Speaking of being patient, these plants were a surprise when they came  up out of the planter where I'd sprinkled a packet of "bee wildflower" seeds last spring. There was no trace of them last year. Up up up the one on the right grew. Finally it produced a tight bud that stayed tightly closed for weeks. It finally opened into this lovely yellow flower. The shorter plant developed a bloom as well and also took its time in opening. I swear it is the same plant as on the right so it was a big surprise that it has a different coloring to it, not just yellow but adding in some reddish brown.

And this lovely blue string of flowers is new since I took the photos in the previous post. I did toss a few more seeds from a bee flower packet in this container this spring so it may be from that. I didn't have any of these last year. They are small and delicate with widely spaced petals, and I am enchanted with their "tails". They remind me of what I might find in Carol Armstrong's Wildflowers: Designs For Applique & Quilting.

By the way, another surprise for which I have no photo came as I was deadheading this red flower. The center had gone to a bit of fluff, but I was totally unprepared for the way the dandelion-like seeds shot out of the center when I touched it.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Tiny Details

It's almost always worth taking a closer look at things. I don't know how I missed those tiny dots at the center at this almost 4 inch daisy bloom, but I did for quite awhile, until I was bending down close for some other reason. I immediately thought "french knots", and if I were rendering this in fabric, that is exactly how I would render these. We miss a lot from afar - even a short afar.

Many of the plants in my deck garden have quite small blooms, anywhere from a half inch to an inch. Yet they pack a lot of detail into that small space. A close look at this dianthus bloom reveals delicate spiraling stamens and petals dusted in pollen.

And although this version is more delicate in color, a close look exposes veins in the stain of pink and equally graceful stamens. Both of these have blooms about an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half across.

I forget the name of this one but it has some of the tiniest blooms, less than an inch and looking the typical petaled bloom. And yet, look at what's going on in the center - so much! It's as if a beader had gotten busy on it.

Even fading blooms from this plant demand a closer look as you can see; those tight little balls in the center have opened up to release pollen. Think chenille thread. Color may be fading but the petals maintain their crease definitions.

This is a much larger bloom, from 3 to 4 inches, from yet another variety of daisy. What has fascinated me about it is its large domed center. What is going on there in that tangle?

It doesn't get any clearer as the flower fades.

Since leaving it on the plant day after day has not changed its appearance much nor revealed its secrets, I guess I would have to tease it apart to really understand its structure, but I haven't tried that yet.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Round Lake State Park Revisited

Looking back towards the beach and dock

The weatherman says summer has finally arrived with an upcoming stretch of warmer weather, and I had an itch to get out to Round Lake before flowers withered and grass dried up. My times out there have been late summer or even into September when that is exactly what I found. But word was that the recent rains had cause the flowers to bloom and I wanted to see them. I chose Tuesday of this week because I thought there would be few people there. Instead, I found a nearly full parking lot and dozens of people on the beach, on the dock, in the water and in boats enjoying this fine day.

My plan was to walk the main wide and gently sloping trail as far as the bridge that crosses over the creek formed by the lake's outflow. Shady, cool, and not many people. But it wasn't far until I got diverted by an information sign between my trail and the more strenuous one that follows along the lake. I soon found myself lured onto the lower trail. Glad I did as there were more flowers along there to see than on the upper trail.

Most of these flowers are quite small - half to three quarters of an inch across, tiny bits of color and sometimes great detail. I know the names of so few of these, only the most obvious like the blue bells, lupine, clover and the daisies. Sometimes it makes me sad because it brings back memories of walking through the woods with my mom who seemed to know the name of every flower and so taught them to me, but I have forgotten so many. What I have not forgotten is her pleasure in coming across one, how her face would light up and how her tone of voice would change, part reverent, part delighted, as if she were meeting an old friend she hadn't seen in awhile. She'd almost always stoop down, getting her face close, gently cupping the bloom in her fingers and telling me what she knew about it or what memory it evoked. I wonder if she was not having similar memories to mine as I'm sure she learned these names from her own mother. She's definitely not far from my mind when I am among wildflowers in the woods.

Previous shot from the other side - big tree looks to have twisted before falling

I'd also heard that the park had lost a lot of trees in a windstorm we had early in the year, and that volunteers had helped to clear some of this to open up that lakeside trail. I soon came across the evidence where they had sawn away the blocking portion leaving the rest of the tree in place where it fell.

Now I'm along the outflow, where beavers have been busy and the water flows wide and gently, suddenly taken with the look of the cedar branches as the sun shines through them while I am in shade.

Suddenly there's a splash, and I realize I am standing with ducks nearly at my feet! I'd almost missed them, so near the color of those sticks in the shade were they. Three had swum over to the pile of branches and had found something to feed on, their heads under the water, tails up. A fourth one swam over and checked it out.

And then, apparently, it wasn't too interested in what was there and glided away, perching in a shallow spot where its feet could touch. I've not seen any wildlife in my visits, always coming at the wrong time of day, so I was pretty thrilled.

Not far from the bridge now, and as anticipated, the spot where I wanted to sit for awhile was well shaded among the pines. This was an inaugural outing for a day pack I'd bought last year and not had a chance to use. I've become quite enamored of the Baggallini brand of bags and own several different sizes. I was sure I'd be just as happy with a small backpack from them and this little hike proved it. Normally I can get my sketching supplies and collapsible chair in a messenger bag, but I was also needing to add some contents from my purse, my big camera and a water bottle, more bulk than I could easily stuff in it and which would make it too heavy to carry slung over my shoulder. The day pack was perfect.

And here is my view. I had thought to sketch a bit of the bridge while I enjoyed the sound of the water, and did get out a sketchbook and penciled in the major features. But the watercolors never made it out of the pack as I'd been having a bit of a low energy day anyway, and the afternoon was slipping away after all those pauses to shoot wildflowers and ducks. It was enough to concentrate just a bit on the sketch and then just sit there in such a peaceful place. But wait! Do I see a deer just on the other side of the bridge? Not one but two, carefully making their way across the creek. But they were in too much of a hurry to stand and pose, suddenly taking off up the hill. It was enough to have seen them before making my way back to the car. I'm so blessed to be able to spend an afternoon like this.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

A Little Company

Shortly after I put flowers in my deck pots and arranged them, I notice this nearly white spider racing between the far pot on the right and the longer pot next to it. Not sure I remember seeing such a spider, more used to the typical array of black spiders big and small that hang about. It's been nice enough these past weeks to spend some deck time reading, and I'd occasionally spot this spider hanging out with the red flowers, or racing about. But this particular day, I looked up from my book and saw this. It was perched on this tall leaf nearly at eye level as if checking me out.

Well, this was too good, that it seemed it was going to sit still for a bit, so I grabbed my camera. However, it seemed a bit camera shy. It was definitely watching me as I leaned in, and moved mostly out of sight.

I followed, getting off the deck only to see it smoothly move under the leaf, and back on top in concert with my every move.

Eventually, it decided I meant no harm and got back to work, letting me get very close with my lens.

I have since learned that this is a crab spider, and I can see why, as it stretched and contracted and waved about those longest legs out front.

I'd say this spider is no more than 3/4 inches long, if that, and has very distinctive markings. It was a joy to watch and get many photos of - click on any for a larger view.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Holding On To The Memory

Courting in 1974
My husband-to-be and I met midway through college. That man set his sights on me and pursued me for weeks and weeks following a band tour, but could never find me in my dorm room. I was off chasing down a couple of other guys from the band who I'd set my sights on prior to that tour. But they ended up not being as enamored with me as this guy who persisted until I finally gave him a chance. And boy, am I glad I did. We always loved this photo, taken by a friend of ours who was taking a photography class so always had her camera nearby. She printed an enlargement and had it framed to give to us, the joke being poor Allen, she's not going to let him get away when in truth, it had started the other way around.

Hard to believe he's been gone twenty years now, and while some memories may have faded, I have to believe the most important ones have not. I cherish this anniversary of the day he went to a greater reward, a day to pause and pull up as many of those memories as I can, to smile, to enjoy thoughts of the many things we did together, shared, and how much we meant to each other. Truth be told, I'm a little glad he is not having to live through this current health crisis, the lockdowns, the stay at home orders, the possible uncertainty of continuing to make a living, the risks of being in a certain group more apt to be infected. As someone who had a hard time sitting still, who always had to be doing something, and who often pushed against limitations, he'd no doubt be going a little crazy, and driving me a little crazy too! But I'd probably take that craziness to be able to go through this tough time with him for company and support. But for now, memory will suffice.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Ways to Fulfill the Daily Drawing Practice

June has skittered away from me somehow with seemingly little to show for it, although I know I haven't been that idle. I continue to play a bit of catch-up as I choose what to use to keep up with some kind of daily drawing. These two Zentangles are from videos showing how one simple repeated shape can grow into something that looks quite complicated. They are akin to tessellations, and by adding addition lines or circles in the basic tessellation shape, magic happens. They are also the kind of tangle that enco
urages adding a bit of color, so I was pleased to be able to add these to my "and then add red" sketchbook.

Then I moved on to complete the last unit in a Sketchbook Skool course I started 3 years ago. I know - I get distracted or diverted and lose track of time. I'm saving telling you about those exercises until I finish them up and can present them as a whole. In the meantime, I've been working through some free lessons from Christine Elder whose interest and forte is in nature sketching. The first short lesson was on drawing birds, something I don't have a great interest in, but her method can be adapted to most anything. She relies on observation and breaking down the specimen into general shapes like circles, triangles and rectangles and recommends starting with the big shapes first. This is contrary to what I've always instinctively done with animals, which is to start with the head and move to the body. I was surprised at how much difference it made to do the opposite. I was doing this sketch quickly so didn't take time do double check against the photo, nor darken the lines, and once scanned next to the illustration, I can see where I got off. Still, I was pleased with how easy this was to do with Christine's instructions.

Now I'm into her longer "Drawn To Nature" course, which is taking longer to get through the materials before getting to the "homework" of drawing. But again, I am learning helpful tips on observation, identifying and roughing in shapes and sequence. For instance, in this exercise to draw a leaf, I probably would have put the stem and veins in last. But now I see the value in getting the stem and main vein in first, then basic leaf shape, followed by secondary veins, and then working on the detail of the leaf edge, be it lobed or jagged or smooth. Little things but things that make a difference in accuracy if that is where you're headed. I couldn't resist pulling out a stamp pad so I could use my leaf specimen to stamp its image on the opposite page to show the smaller veins I couldn't see from the front and how close I got to getting everything right.

Each lesson has suggestions of how to improve your observation skills. For the suggestion to choose a real subject to first note what you think you know about it before observing it, then sketch it, then note what you learned through this process I chose a sand dollar, something I picked up often during my time living near the beach and which I knew I had one sitting where I could easily find it. I hadn't looked at one for so long that there were several things I would have gotten wrong if I'd drawn from memory. And then with deep observation, I spotted things I had not noticed before.  The next lesson sent us out looking for something out of the ordinary to sketch, or sketching at an out of the ordinary time (like after dark), or out of the ordinary place (like a mud puddle). I happened to spot a leaf on my walk that had what struck me as an out of the ordinary bug trail on it. That bug took a much more wandering path than I generally do! (Full disclosure: I was in a hurry and traced the outline of the leaf.)

The next lesson is to choose to draw something you want to learn more about. I've recently been reminded of a piece long on my design wall that I wanted to paint some koi on (to cover up an oops) but have been reluctant to proceed because I'd have to draw out that koi. So I'm going to use this exercise to learn more about koi and start sketching one. There are more units and videos under this "Drawn To Nature" course, so I'll be dipping into it for awhile, feeling that it is teaching me valuable things while helping me maintain a daily practice.