"May autumn's bounty sustain and comfort us as the days shorten and the light recedes."
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
There was a sign posted at the entry to the woods warning of high fire danger. We haven't had much rain over the summer and are in a bit of a drought as so much of the country is. So I was surprised to come upon a stand of cedars with soft branches of needles rather than brittle and dry ones. And also young cedars of a bright green like you'd expect in spring. So fresh and beautiful!
Just beyond the cedars, the trail switchbacked onto a flatter section, easy walking, still shaded by trees.
And then it headed up. This is looking back down where I'd just hiked up, at a switchback, and it's hard to tell from the photo how steep this section was.
There were short flatter sections as I headed up the hill, sure now that I was on a loop and would end up back at the trail marker. This was the steepest part.
And I was right about where I would end up. But I'd only been on the trail for about 20 minutes which included pauses for pictures and looking around. Not feeling any pain anywhere and not ready to leave, I decided to take the trail in the opposite direction, only stopping to note the lush moss on the big rock (which again was a surprise because of the dry hot weather we'd had) and take the obligatory foot and walking stick photo to prove I was there. From the switchback, it was a long incline back to the trailhead, requiring a few pauses to catch my breath, but still only took about ten minutes to do the loop the reverse direction. I was thinking then that this was maybe only a half mile loop but I later found it on a map showing it to be .8 miles. A part of me could have done more, I even considered driving on up to the main lot of numerous trailheads but decided not to push my luck. It was a good test run of my post-op body.
I also stopped along a daily walk last week to sketch a row of new houses, but boy did it go off the rails. I started with the middle one of the three I planned to sketch, only to have it soon overtake the entire page. I also didn't take time to check the roof angles which I drew in first and after I sketched in the rest of the house, I could see how off they were. I had planned a second outing to add some color but the sketch is so confusing in its perspective, I may just let it go and either work on a new version straight on rather than at an angle or go back to my original idea of working in the three houses on one page. I don't often interact with people when I'm urban sketching but this time, as I sat on my 3-legged stool hunched over my sketchbook, a car came around the corner and the driver slowed enough to ask if I was alright. What a puzzle! but after some thought it occurred to me that from the back I might have looked in distress. Guess I need to sit up straighter as I sketch!
Monday, September 11, 2023
We have had such lovely weather this past week. The calendar may have flipped to September and the Labor Day weekend gave the traditional cool and rainy weather, now mother nature is willing to give us more summer-like weather before true fall sets in. I have a large trunk in my livingroom that I cover with a rotating display of my smaller quilts usually geared to the season and I am not yet ready to get out any with fall leaves or fall colors. But this one . . . I had just joined my first ever quilt guild, and people were showing off how their mystery quilts had come out. I was so taken with the design that I asked for the directions so I could make my own version. It called for many fabrics, much cutting of small pieces, and with everything cut and ready for sewing those stars with the log cabin centers, I took it to a weekend retreat. My good friend Judi kept saying to quit matching up fabrics, just grab without looking and sew together. I kept saying, that IS what I am doing but I can't have the same fabric showing up in the same place. Well, you know how that goes. But her chiding did make me get more random with sewing my blocks together, and I just love the way the quilt turned out. And for some reason, it does make me think of September and going back to school, with all that red fabric and even some strips of brick prints. My elementary and Junior High buildings were brick.
So with all that nice weather, I got a bee in my bonnet (not literally) and headed out to the library to pick up new reading material and then to City Beach to get my walk in. The sun was about to dip behind the mountain, the temps were in the 70's, there was a light breeze, and the sailboats were out! How perfect is that? I've been living minutes away from this gorgeous lake since 2006 and I still found myself asking that day, how in the heck did I end up here? Just very lucky.
This late in the day, this late in the season, there weren't many people but gulls were still hanging about. I always marvel at the way they often line up evening spaced apart.
And the geese . . . try as they may, those in charge of the beach area cannot rid it of geese and the mess they leave behind. So here they were again, and with my quirky sense of humor, I noted that they flagrantly disregarded the sign as well.
Tuesday, September 05, 2023
To be honest, I didn't feel very good last week, and I kept making excuses for my tired achy body (like the change in the weather and a couple of vigorous yoga sessions) and a sudden runny nose (probably pollen), but there was no explaining away the sore throat that set in. I think I caught a cold! With all the Covid protocols and my general carefulness because of my auto-immune syndrome, it's been years since I've had a cold, but as I started feeling much better over the weekend, I decided that's just what I had. So not a lot done, but I did feel like going ahead with this simple 7 day sketch challenge. I have a habit of jotting things down that I see on the internet on small pieces of paper which quickly get buried, then magically reappear. That's what happened with this challenge which I decided I wanted to do because I had the perfect key and lock for the first drawing assignment. I had a good time with this one, some things drawn from actual items like the keys, some drawn from memory like the vases and veggies. Just something to do while recooperating in front of the TV. No sewing at all, or bookmaking either, in the studio.
|All that's left of a beautiful antique quilt|
Now for the heartbreak. This is really difficult for me to write about because of my love and reverence for antique quilts and how disturbed I get when I see them cut up to be made into clothing. A part of me understands that some quilts are indeed so heavily damaged and of little historical significance that finding a use for the undamaged parts can give them new life. But it still pains me when, as recently happened, I see a well known and respected member of the quilting community, someone I myself like and appreciate for her skills in creating traditional handquilted quilts as well as beautifully crafted machine quilted art quilts, getting excited about the prospects of cutting up an old quilt and making it into a jacket. The quilt, or what was left of it, was given to her by someone who did not know who had made it, but because of its poor condition (stained and torn and supposedly chewed on by a dog) decided to pass it along saying, "Do what you want with it."
|Teardrops are quilted into the wide sashing. Hearts form buds.|
As you might imagine, this quilter's many followers on Facebook gleefully backed her thoughts to repurpose the good parts as a jacket (I could envision them high fiveing in their enthusiasm), while I commented, "You are breaking my heart. Please don't do this." Well, that brought down the wrath of her followers, all but one who said she would do what I had said when challenged with if not that, then what: study it, gently mend what could be mended, and store it to lovingly preserve it. There were multiple cries of "her quilt, her decision!", and "the quiltmaker would be so pleased to see her quilt be "saved" this way". Well, maybe, but I think she also might be horrified to see what had become of her quilt she had so carefully made, probably for a special occasion or gift. And I feared that this current owner of the quilt was becoming a terrible role model, setting off a new round of antique quilts being cut up. Sure enough, when the finished jacket was posted, several people commented that wow, they were going to get those old quilts out of the closet, or ask for grandma's quilts back so they could turn them into clothes. I shuddered.
|Quilting from the back|
This particular quilter is very gracious though, and instead of piling on me like her fans, she offered to send me what was left of the quilt so I could study it and perhaps figure out a way of preserving the remnants and I gratefully accepted. Then in a lengthy e-mail, she explained her reasoning which included "This quilt was so heavily damaged – and not particularly well made or well designed, or of historical value, in my opinion – that I didn’t have too many qualms. . . To me, repurposing old quilts as coats or pillows is not disrespect. When I wear this jacket, it will be to honor the maker, to bring attention to the beauty of old quilts (even the tattered ones), and to give the quilt new life. . ." She also noted that she is the caretaker of many family quilts dating back to her great grandmother. With only seeing the small portion of the quilt she shared in a photo on her posting, I could only take her word for it about it, and decided that she had a point about this not being a family heirloom and pretty much discarded but for her interest in it. I'd know more when I received the part she did not use.
And when it arrived, I was stunned that she would call this not particularly well made. The applique is well-done to my eye, and while the quilting is not dense with tiny stitches, it is well-thought-out to fill the spaces around the applique (I believe there is quite a bit of clam shell used) with even, if not close, stitches. Even the binding looks perfectly applied. Granted, the design itself lacks the sophistication of many of this kind of quilt with the heaviness of the sash or vine border, but the coxcomb flowers and leaves with the distinctive split down the center are beautifully done. I believe this is a quilt from 1850-1860 when this design was popular, and the use of green fabric achieved by overdyeing yellow with blue, or vise versa was common. Some of the new aniline dyes produced a more colorfast product and the overdyeing process often resulted in some greens fading to blue overtime, as may be the case on this quilt. But newer theories and research have posited that there may have been a fad of using blue for stems and leaves instead of green. (I have such a quilt in my collection.) I'll have to take a closer look at the applique to see if I can spot any green lurking where the fabric is turned under. I can't get a good sense of the layout of the whole quilt from this small section, nor how large it originally was, and while the green and blue fabric appear to have held up quite well, the red floral is very worn and faded everywhere. To turn this into a wearable seemed a bad idea to me from the outset and even more so now that I had the quilt in hand. Too old for it to hold up under the abuse a jacket would give it.
But it was out of my hands, the jacket made and proudly shown off, again to the rave reviews and delight of her followers. I'd decided to reserve my feelings about the outcome until I saw how she had used the quilt, thinking that with her knowledge and expertise, she might indeed make a beautiful showpiece of the good parts of the quilt. Instead, I was appalled at the result. I realize that it is tricky to place pattern pieces to best advantage, but in my opinion, this is awful and ugly, no homage to the original maker.
I think it would have been much better had she figured out how to get the coxcombs on the front and the sashing/vine on the back. Oh my heart is thoroughly broken over this. I just have to feel lucky that I now have a piece of this quilt, which I will study and notate and add to my collection of antiques. Every old quilt adds a little bit to our knowledge of the history of quilting. Every single one, whether amateurish or masterful deserves our inquisitive respect. In my opinion, this quilt did not receive the respect it deserved. Perhaps you have a different opinion. I'd be happy to hear it.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
“Despite all the hand-wringing about distraction, it’s asked less often what it is that we want to attend to in the first place.” David Schurman Wallace
It amazes me how often a quotation will appear that speaks to a topic I've been mulling. Just last week, I noted that I felt at loose ends after completing all the book projects that had been lined up for so long, leaving me with the question of now what? The quotation (which is from a lengthy article in The Paris Review) shifted my perspective a bit and after a quick look around, I have come up with an answer of what I want to attend to. Let's start with the need for a project I could work on at last Monday's charity meeting that didn't require my packing up my machine. Still not crazy about a lot of lifting, but the group had decided to have a free sewing day to work on whatever we wanted, and I decided that the above hand applique project was what I wanted to spend time on. Truly can't remember the last time it was out and fear it might have been as long as ten years ago, although it sits near the couch in a ziplock bag with this small pouch that has everything I need in it to work on this. It's a very old project, using a different applique method I learned from Jeana Kimball that works like a charm - you can watch her demonstrate a bit of it here: Back basted needle turn applique. I did worry if I would remember how to do it after so much time had passed, and did I really have everything I needed in that pouch? (Yes I did.) But after a fumbling start, muscle memory kicked in, and I was back to soothing meditative stitching.
But I knew I wasn't going to switch to hand sewing for the rest of the week. It was time to finally finish requilting the couch quilt, working on the clam shell quilting in the borders and setting triangles. I may regret this but I couldn't face redoing all of them, so concentrated on securing those areas where the bobbin stitches had broken. Hopefully this mend will be the last I'll have to do. In the meantime, I have another quilt with broken stitches that has been waiting for me to attend to it for quite awhile and darn it, let's just get it done. This one I'd quilted in a crosshatch with YLI Heirloom silk thread. Yes, there's a story as to why but all you need to know is that it was a poor choice, and I let my stubbornness prevail rather than switching to a better thread once I realized there would be problems. But silk is supposed to be strong, right? Maybe, but this fine thread which works well in tightly quilted free-motion designs cannot take the stress of a straight line of it being pulled on as in when you pull a quilt up over you. Like the couch quilt, I'd already spot-mended it twice, and once again I was hearing the pop pop pop of more threads breaking. This time I'm using 50 wt cotton thread and going over ALL the lines of quilting. It will take some time but it will be worth it to have it functional again. After that, I remembered I have a demo quilt block to finish piecing from the fat quarter quilt that is now on my bed. I'm pretty sure it will become a pillow sham. Well on my way from distracted to attending to things.
In the meantime, I had a birthday, one I am not particularly happy about but what can you do? You can feel better as cards like these started to arrive. Look at those beautiful flowers, especially on the card at the right.
In preparation, I checked my grocery store's fine bakery for German chocolate cake, as I've been having a real chocolate craving lately, and also found this small huckleberry cheesecake - how could I resist? Served up on a bone china plate from my collection, that got the week off to a good start.
Then a started working on that single layer cake a few days early. I still have several servings left.
The biggest treat, which may sound silly to some, was to order up dinner and have it delivered. I just never do delivery, except for last year's birthday when I couldn't drive. I'd never eaten at this eatery but besides pizza, they had calzones on the menu. I don't think I've had a calzone since I worked downtown in Tacoma in the 80's, and I would occasionally treat myself to one for lunch. Something small that you could hold in your hand to eat. I'd seen how big this eatery made them from pictures on the website so knew I wouldn't be holding this one in my hand to eat and that I'd have leftovers - that is half of one. I probably could have made do with a quarter of it.
Some birthdays, I try to think of something different I can do to treat myself, someplace to go for a different view, something to see I've been meaning to check out. This year I just didn't feel up to going out and found enjoyment in things at home. Between beverages and meals and desserts, let's just say there were a lot of calories involved and I'm afraid to step on the scales! But I savored every moment and ended up feeling much better about this particular milestone birthday than I expected. Onward!
Sunday, August 20, 2023
Does this look familiar? Yes, just like in quilting, I find myself draping threads to audition colors for stitching. When I was doing my shopping on the internet, I had a feeling that the butterscotch thread in one collection might work well with this handmade paper and it seems that I was right about that. As for the many greens, I was disappointed that there were no true olive greens the color of the leaves. That lightest one at the bottom just didn't look like it fit to me. The dark green one though was like the few dark green sprigs and stems, and in viewing what other members in my club had chosen for the woven part of the binding, choosing that one seemed a good bet. I did let these sit overnight before making my final decision, but I'm trying to keep to something that came out of a 5 day journaling exercise I did back in July - LESS DITHERING, MORE DOING! I could have gone back and forth over several other options and combinations but after sleeping on it, it was pretty clear I'd be going with the butterscotch and dark green.
Now that it is done, I've had second thoughts about my thread color choices. I'm very happy with the butterscotch, just not so sure pairing it with the dark green looks as good as I thought it would. On the other hand, I simply did not think the "khaki" green thread, the lightest of the bunch, would look right either in the link stitches, really didn't go with the rest of the green going on. And to ditch green thread altogether to use something else with the butterscotch? Well, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So here I am, wondering if it looks alright, if perhaps I should have just gone with one color or the other for all the stitches. It makes me want to make another one right away!
The link stitches on each end of the spine are done first, to stabilize the book and make the weave part a bit easier. An unusual technique in the making of this book is the insertion of the first and last signatures into front and back covers respectively which have been folded in half. Apparently this is because the stitching might rip through the soft handmade paper. This method makes the attachment of the covers strong.
The covers are cut (or in my case, torn) wider than the width of an open signature so that the fore edges can be turned inside to create more stability along that edge and also to provide pockets if the top and bottom edges of the flap are secured (I used double stick tape).
Here's a closeup look at the stitches - link (or Coptic) stitches on the outside, the Celtic weave in the center. The weave looks very complicated, doesn't it? But it really isn't, a simple crossing over of threads using two needles as one works up through the holes of each signature. Once you've got your rhythm, it's a bit meditative, and reminded me a bit of braiding hair.Click on the photo for a larger view.
Here's one last look at the finished book. Since this is to be a gift, I can't tell you how pleased I am with the way it came together. The stitching is nice and tight without keeping the book from closing naturally which means the signatures have very little gap between them and little if any wriggling. And it feels so good in the hand, soft yet substantial. I'll be adding a few things to the pages before sending it on, Celtic inspired things, which should be fun.
That's the last of the books (unless I want to keep going by working on the one I have a cover set aside for but I think I need a break from bookmaking). I hardly know what to turn to next, though I planned for it to be some sewing. Do you find yourself at loose ends once you finish a major project if you don't have something immediately waiting in the wings? After being so driven and focused for so long, it's a floaty feeling for me, relief and indecision all at once!
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
I made a good start last week on the final book that I had set out directions and signature papers for prior to last year's back surgery: Celtic Weave. I chose a handmade paper embedded with small leaves and sprigs for the covers, tearing it to size to maintain the soft rough edges and folding per instructions. I so wanted an olive green thread to do the binding stitch with, but I didn't have any green bookbinding thread. Well, maybe that tan hemp thread I've been using so much lately would do, or even a white thread, but you just know I could not get my mind off of green thread. I spent way too much time on the internet tracking down a green in the
waxed linen thread preferred for bookbinding. As you can see, I
succumbed to a collection of green threads - something in there will be right - and another collection with a possible better tan/brown thread. First road bump taken care of.
And because if I just added a few more things to my cart, shipping would be free. Yes, I easily succumb to that one too, but to be fair, it will be nice to have these extra color options as I continue to make books.
While I waited for my order to arrive, I gathered and folded my signatures, placing them and the covers under weights, then went back to watching a few instruction videos for this stitch as well as a follow-up one where another member asked what she could do about the very problem I'd had when folding that embedded handmade paper. Some of the leaves are so close to the surface, or totally exposed, that when folding, some of them pop off. I had wondered if brushing on some matte medium might help keep them in place as the book is being used, and sure enough, that was the suggestion given. So second speed bump that had to be dealt with before I could get to sewing my book together. I had a pretty good size piece left over that I could test this on, and I was pleased that the matte medium didn't make the paper buckle or take away from the textural feel of it. The thread is here but I didn't have time to coat the book covers until today, so with any luck, stitching will commence tomorrow.
In the meantime, we are having our own heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, where many cities exceeded 100 degrees and my own little town managed to break a record yesterday with a high of 99 degrees. I've been staying in as it heats up fast in the morning so even shady deck sitting isn't pleasant, and waiting for the sun to go down before going for my walk when, while it is still 80 degrees, without the sun beating down is quite pleasant.
Monday I took my sketchbook and captured the nearby EMS station which really does sort of sit in an open field backed by trees. My lines are not exactly straight, partly because I drew this standing up.
I sketched my pussywillow branch again a few weeks ago, this time with different pens. It's interesting (at least to me) to render something using different mediums. (Plus it's helping to use up a few remaining pages in a Sketchbook Revival sketchbook.) I'd run across an article where Phillip Pullman says,
"Drawing helps us see better. We never look at anything with so much attention as when we’re drawing it, and it’s a thinking attention, comparing this shape with that, the breadth of a hand with the span of the glass it’s holding, the darkness of that shadow with the brown of the velvet curtain, the foliage of that silver birch with the quite different leaves of the hornbeam beside it. Learning to draw is learning to see much more vividly and clearly."
I would add that it sparks curiosity as well. Not just about the thing one is drawing, but one's own abilities. This was always a driving force for me in my quilting, a curiosity about if something could be captured in fabric and thread. I find I have the same curiosity about my ability to capture something with pencil, pen or brush.
Tuesday, August 08, 2023
|Open cover waiting for stiffening inserts and strap before gluing shut|
And here's the finished product, which I am pretty pleased with. I was also pretty pleased with the way I moved right along, day after day. So much of bookmaking actually is doing a step that doesn't take very long, then having to wait hours or until the next day while signatures are being pressed or glue is drying before proceeding to the next step. This pace and the breaking up of tasks suits my current attention span, not to mention it keeps me from overdoing it physically as it forces breaks that my sewing and quilting do not.