Saturday, July 31, 2021

A Five Day Challenge

Fabric left over from making a mask now bookcloth!

While casting about for something to work on during the week between my two July remembrance days early in the month, a week I often spend working on something I think my late husband would approve of or that brings certain memories of him, my Handmade Book Club offered a "Five Day Fabric Journal Challenge" happening that very week. I know, I know - this is a finish year, not a start new things year. But I erroneously thought the structure of the challenge - small specific tasks posted each of the 5 days - would keep me on track to actually finish making the book over those five days. Plus the exposed binding was different and a new way to make bookcloth would be covered. With nothing else calling out, I decided I was in! I didn't even dither long over choosing the fabric for my covers and I quickly finished day one's assignment - fabric fused to a paper backing rather than attaching it with wheat paste. I normally don't use Heat and Bond but have had this sitting in my fusible drawer for a very long time. As I did the fusing, I couldn't remember just why I'd decided that I didn't like it.

On to day two and this went relatively quickly as well, familiar territory the making of signatures. Plus it gave me a chance to try out a paper cutter I'd picked up on the cheap thanks to a great sale price and some earned credits. I've been wanting one of these for a long time and felt I'd been avoiding some of the bookmaking because I found the hand cutting of paper for signatures tedious. Must be all those years I was a school secretary, because the first time I brought down the blade and heard that distinctive snick it made, I was smiling from ear to ear. I didn't have much to trim off my paper but especially with the markings to help line up the paper, it certainly speeded up the process.

I've been thinking about adding lined pages to my books and decided this was the time to make it happen. With the help of a pdf provided by the Handbook Club's leader, I printed lines on one side of my papers only, so that when they are nested, a lined page will face a blank page. Not sure how I will use this book but one thought is to sketch or collage on the blank side and journal on the lined side. Click on the photo above for a larger view and squint to see those lines and how they work in the signature.

Collated and folded, my signatures now went under a heavy stack of books. It really is amazing how much flatter a signature becomes after time under the weights. Then the fore edge can be trimmed away, that unavoidable creep of the inner pages past the edge of the outer page. And that is as far as I got before I got sidetracked by something else (can't even remember what now). Day three was to be the cutting of the cover boards, a process I truly dislike. I printed off directions, watched the video, and stubbornly refused to deal with it. That is until today, when I finally carved out some time before July totally got away from me. I'd recently read additional suggestions of how to make this cutting go more easily, and one of the suggestions did help, but it still takes many passes of your knife of choice to get through the 2mm board. This is so vexing to even experience bookmakers that they buy pre-cut boards or take them to a print shop that has the machinery to cut board to your specifications. So it's not just me.

Just like in quilting, measuring, marking the dimensions of the covers and cutting must be precise and square, and my first one was. My second one was not. It was an eighth inch narrower at the bottom than at the top. And quilters know that even a tiny eighth of an inch can throw things out of kilter. Ok, try again. But I was having increasing difficulty with the metal ruler slipping, even though it has grippy cork on the back. The third one was off not just along the bottom but along one side as well, but this time it was angled slivers extending beyond the desired measurement so trimmable. But how to get everything square, mark the cutting line and make those laborious cuts with the Stanley knife? Not the first time I've grabbed a quilting ruler to square things  up in my bookmaking, and it was so obvious what needed to be trimmed away. But I can't use a knife with my quilting ruler. My big rotary cutter was lying not far off to the side, seeming to taunt me. Come on, it seemed to say, use me - I bet I can get through that board. And with three quick cuts, it did! Now yes, I know that kind of cutting will dull it, and yes, rotary blades are a little pricey, but to be honest, I don't use that really big one very much and I'd already spent so much time trying to make the Stanley knife cut through it. I more than reduced the time in half that trimming with the "proper" tool would have taken, and ended up with two boards that were the right dimensions and perfectly matched. A worthwhile tradeoff, and the next time I'm faced with cutting board, I'll try the rotary cutter again.

I also got my signatures out from under the books and trimmed away that fore edge creep - with a quilting ruler and small rotary cutter designated for paper - so they are ready to have sewing holes punched in them. But the next step is not that, but gluing that bookcloth to those covers and adding end papers. I'm a bit stumped about what to use for the end papers - possible candidates so far have not been big enough. Something will come to mind . . .  

Friday, July 23, 2021

My Bee Flowers

First I want to thank those of you who left such lovely comments on my two remembrance posts. Definitely warmed my heart, especially the ones noting that they too had celebrated 50 years of marriage. I had a feeling I had readers who had made that milestone. Congratulations! Here - have some flowers, or at least pictures of flowers, which is my second thing. These winter over in their planter on my back deck and I think this is the third summer I've enjoyed these blooms. The first summer there were only two blooms, but now look how the plant has grown and has sent up multiple blooms.

I don't know what it is called because it came out of a packet of mixed seeds meant to produce plants that bees would be drawn to. The blooms unfurl ever so slowly over weeks . . .

But each bloom sticks around for weeks as well.

Although it looks like the stems all originate from the same basic plant, there are two different styles of blooms: one with a single layer of petals round the center and one with several layers of petals.

And several different distinct colorations. All delight me.

They DO draw the bees. Look at all the pollen covering this one. Does anyone know the name of this flower?

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Another Day to Remember


On this day in 1975, I married the man I'd met and fell in love with (with quite a bit of pushing from him!) my junior year in college. My parents didn't have a lot of excess money lying around and my dad in particular frowned on credit, so some choices had to be made. For instance, I could either have a professional engagement photo taken which would be used with our wedding announcement in the newspapers and our invitations, or I could have a professional wedding photographer at the big day. I opted for the former and one of my brothers offered to take the wedding photos using a fairly good camera (and we were very pleased with the job he did).

This photo did not age well - my dress really was white

I'd been making my own and my mother's clothes for years so it was a no brainer that I would make my wedding gown and her mother-of-the-bride dress. I'd seen a Renaissance painting that included a women in an interesting dress - at the elbow and the high waistline was a second layer of fabric that split to reveal the sleeve and skirt underneath. With arms bent, the outer sleeve would hang down. When walking, the outer skirt would part and be pulled back. I found a pattern that was close, reshaped the neckline to match that in the painting, and figured out how to add those outer pieces of fabric on the sleeve and skirt. And because this was the 70's, the veil was a nod to Romeo and Juliet. Yes, I was very much a romantic.

As for my bridesmaids, they too knew how to sew, so I purchased the pattern and fabric for their dresses and veils and sent it off to them. The groom and his groomsmen all but one owned their own tuxes because of the various music groups they played in. All they had to do was rent those ruffled tux shirts in blue to match the bridesmaids dresses. It was definitely a wedding on the cheap.

Probably the biggest expense was renting the Waikiki Retreat House for the event and as I look up a link, I see it is no longer called that and also does not allow wedding ceremonies anymore. But here's a link with a photo and a little history. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when not too far in advance of the wedding, we were informed that there was an extra fee for chairs which my father refused to pay. Lots of hand wringing on the part of my mother and tears on my part until my in-laws stepped in to cover it. Our college jazz band had played at an event there and I decided on the spot I'd much rather be married there in its garden than in my little church back home. (Another kerfuffle as my mom had her heart set on the home-town church. I countered with using the minister and inviting the church ladies to help with the reception. Grumbling ensued but I won out.) Another musician friend played classical music on his guitar as we processed in and out, and during the reception too. It really was a fairy tale setting, at least for me. Never mind that it rained and lightninged all morning, and we feared we'd have to have the ceremony inside. The storm spent itself about 15 minutes before we were to begin, just enough time to get those rented chairs set up and everyone seated.

And when my dad and I stepped from the mansion to walk up the aisle, the sun came out! Talk about timing. My dad had the best time that day, and reportedly leaned over to my mother after the service to say "I forgot to smooch her!"

Here is probably our favorite photo from that day. As we readied to cut the cake, that musician on the guitar did a little strum like a drum roll. We'd both been working for the college food service and our boss who also owned a catering business presented us with the cake as a wedding gift. Since the wedding was on a Sunday and in those days, florists did not deliver on Sunday, he also stored the flowers and the cake in the college cafeteria's cooler so we would have access to them on the day.

The reception was fun for everyone I think, and I was dragging my feet about leaving. but our time slot was nearly up so I changed into my "getaway dress" (which I did NOT make surprisingly), and said our goodbyes before getting into a borrowed car for the quick trip downtown where we had reservations for a several day stay at the historic Davenport Hotel. Remember, we were recently graduated broke college students with not a lot of money for a honeymoon and a campus job to get back to.

That honeymoon suite did not disappoint! And they were quick to arrive with complimentary champagne. What a treat . . . 

Waine & Anna Whitlock married 4/28/1906 at her family home

So we almost made it to 25 years, and had every intention of making it to 50. We were decedents of strong long-lasting marriages that served as role models for staying together. My maternal grandparents made it to 50 in 1956 and were given a brass clock with the event engraved on it.

Leone & Floyd Mahanke married 8/12/1938

I inherited the clock and made sure my parents info was engraved on it as well when they celebrated their 50th in 1988. Family story goes that they crossed state lines from South Dakota into Wyoming because Wyoming had no waiting period, and as my mother said, when your dad makes up his mind about something, you don't argue, you just go! They found a church to be married in. No doubt what mom was thinking about when her little girl was planning her own wedding.

Frank and Carol Barnes

Allen's own parents made it to 50 I believe, although I don't seem to have any pictures of their celebration. Here's one taken in 1979; they were married in the early 1950's.                                                               

Once Allen died, I passed the clock onto my oldest living brother, telling him that if he and his wife made it to 50 years, he had to promise me he'd have their info engraved on it. The clock is like the one in the photo above so you can see how there are 4 panels on the top for engraving.

Joe & Jackie Mahanke married in 1969

And they did indeed celebrate their 50th in 2019 and have the clock engraved. Bravo! And I have little doubt that my other brother with a long-lived marriage will reach year 50 and have his info engraved on the last panel of the clock.

Thanks for indulging me and my memories. I've had a pleasant day going through our wedding album and scrapbook, and sharing the story.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Finishing The Blank Book Journal

I was a bit disappointed that I got so close to finishing this blank journal yet didn't get those final steps done before eye surgery compromised my vision. I'm still not able to see sharply nor focus on small details without the help of a magnifying glass, but I'm only a little over a week out from full healing and hopefully getting fitted for glasses that will give my, as the eye doctor said, best vision. Can't wait. But there has been progress and I decided that surely I could thread up a big needle with perle cotton and stick it through the pre-punched holes. Well, it was more difficult than I thought it would be, so now I definitely know my limits in the studio! But I persevered, got those signatures sewn in and a button/elastic loop closure added. I'm very pleased with the results.

Here you can see better some of the quilting which just follows random texture of the hand-dyed fabric which I think came from friend Susan. It didn't strike me as anything floral until I was done, and then the spiky blooms were quite plain. The button is an old one from my mother's/grandmother's collection and the colors in it match those of the fabric perfectly. I have 2 more of these button in a smaller size and have used at least one more of the set someplace else. I've always wondered what piece of clothing these came off of, as that was definitely a thing to save pretty buttons off clothing that was worn out.

I just sew the signatures in with a simple long stitch, copying Michele who made me my first such blank journal, and using perle cotton, although sometimes I can find a different kind of strong but decorative thread to match the fabric. It holds the signatures well enough for how I use the book.

Usually the fabric I choose is a little heavier than quilting cotton but this time not, so after some dithering, I decided to cut another slightly smaller piece of the hand-dye and fuse it to the inside of the cover (a bit like end papers) before sewing in the signatures, just to give it a little more stability. I've already started writing in it and it is working perfectly, such a feeling of satisfaction when I pick it up to use.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Quiet Day of Remembrance

A quick trip to visit my parents pre-proper gear

The years tick by, leaving my loved one frozen in time, forever 46 when he died on this day in 2000, while I continue to age with fond memories of our time together - 25 years of marriage and a few preceding that of courting. Motorcycles defined much of our lives together, and I loved every minute spent riding behind him. Well, maybe not every minute. Some of the motorcycle vacations we took had very long days on the bike, leaving us stiff and sore, sometimes getting caught in downpours, soaked and cold, before we invested in rain gear, other times baking in the hot sun. In fact there were many uncomfortable rides on bikes not meant for long 2-up treks and without proper gear.

But we eventually moved up to a Harley decked out in proper "luggage" bags and decked ourselves out in proper leathers as well. It was a wonderful way to explore new countryside and look for fun photo ops when we moved to Wisconsin.

So my day will be remembering my guy, his foibles as well as his strengths, the things he enjoyed doing and his love for me. Miss you and those rides . . .

Saturday, July 03, 2021

That Idaho Beauty Block

Clockwise from upper left: Idaho Beauty, Washington Star, Wisconsin, California Snowflake

A few posts back, Sylvia mentioned that she was not familiar with the Idaho Beauty block, and to be honest, I don't think that in the many years I've been using it as my signature block and part of my e-mail address I've run into a single quilter who had heard of it. Like many quilt blocks, this design goes by several names, sometimes dependent on fabric and/or value placement, and according to Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns (which my mother-in-law gave me in 1993), six in this case. I'm guessing that Devil's Claws is the most familiar name for it, but I can thank Clara Stone's 1906 Practical Needlework: Quilt Patterns for adding Idaho Beauty as a name for this block.  This wasn't the only block with Idaho in its name but it was the one I liked the most. And I can thank Barbara's book for leading me to the other 3 state blocks that I incorporated into the above quilt called Personal Geography: States I Have Lived In.

Close-up of hand quilting boldly done with blue thread

I made this quilt for a contest in 1994 for a sampler quilt contest sponsored by the now defunct Northwest Fabrics & Crafts store. I'd moved to Wisconsin with no plans to go back into the workforce, but instead to devote my time to really learning how to make quilts and about the history behind them, and this hometown store provided my first quilting fabrics. Once I'd gained some confidence and perfected some skills, I scoured the ads in the several quilting magazines I subscribed to for information on contests I could enter, both block contests and quilt contests. Yes, this was before you could find this sort of information on the internet and also before digital cameras and learning the finer points of taking evenly lit and square-on photos to submit with entry forms. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

This photo shows a little of how the border was pieced

To my disappointment, it didn't get accepted into that contest, nor into several others I tried being held in other parts of the country, but it did get into several including ones in Florida and Asheville NC that included judging sheets with the returned quilt. I got surprisingly good marks for such a novice, but one judge did ding me on my not so mitered corners on the binding. After successfully overcoming several how-do-I-construct-this-idea-I-have challenges of the sashing and border, I could not figure out how to turn those binding corners which ended up somewhat rounded with tiny gathers. I convinced myself that I liked that look and decided to bravely go with it, but no judges were fooled. I now know there IS a way to make rounded corners and bind them and that wasn't it!

This was also before the availability of quilting software for designing, and I worked out my setting and borders on graph paper probably colored with felt pens or markers, and drew full size templates for the sashing and border pieces on newsprint (I still often do this). The idea for the compass sashing came to me, like so many other quilting solutions, while I was trying to fall asleep. As you can see in the photo above, I "auditioned" a striped border as well as the one I eventually used which seemed to echo the lines of the center compass. My husband noted that "your quilt is exploding, little pieces scattering everywhere", and I picked up on that idea in the description I submitted with my entries, saying "The octagonal border accentuates the feeling that the design is expanding, just as my horizons expand with each move." Marketing, I swear, it's all about marketing! The finishing touch was to ink with permanent pen all the addresses where I'd lived on the back of the quilt, matching them with the proper state block.

How do I know all this after all these years? Is my memory that good? I know all this because of the documentation file I filled out and placed in a binder with the other quilt documentation files I'd been keeping. I'd been doing a little of this, mostly notes on the back of photos, but at some point someone in one of those magazines I'd been reading talked about the importance of documenting your quilts and had pre-printed manila envelopes covering all the pertinent information you should note and giving you a place to store additional information, photos, patterns, judging sheets. Well, I'd been a secretary for so long that this was right up my alley, an aid to organization and filing. I ordered up a set and I was off. I soon devised a revised version of this original one, changing some of the categories to reflect better the sort of information I felt important. I've especially appreciated added fabric swatches as often the camera doesn't get the colors quite right. I've faithfully filled out these documentation files to this very day and am so happy I've taken the time. Where I once thought I'd never forget the details of each quilt I made, I now sometimes struggle just to remember their names. But with these files, here is the entire history of each quilt along with my thought processes and feelings as I worked through each. You can click on the photo above and below and know pretty much the full details and history of this quilt.

I often continue writing on the back

Before you ask, I think I've used this block in only one other quilt, just a single big block with a wide border. I've made a stamp of it though, to use on the back of framed pieces along with my information, and it shows up on my business cards and as my avatar on some sites. However, once I did get some quilt designing software, I mocked up a full-size quilt with just this block, in white and teal, with teal sashing and borders and star block cornerstones. Even have fabric set aside, but I've never gotten around to making it. Perhaps still some day . . .