Friday, September 30, 2022

Now It's Fall!!

No doubt about it after this past week -- the day the calendar said "autumn begins", it began with a wallop here in Northeast Ohio.  The temperatures dropped and the rain and the wind came for a long weekend.  Nothing like the hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, but that's why I've retired here in NEOhio!!

I just came inside from doing what will likely be my last Ask A Bumble Bee survey for the season.  I started in mid June and have done about 10 surveys in my yard and several local parks.  It involved photographing all the blooming plants and counting how many (if any) bumble bees were foraging on them.  I didn't have to ID the bees beyond being "bumbles" but after a summer following them around the yard, I know this is a Common Eastern and it's a male and he is nectaring on Little White Aster which I've let go where ever they want to grow because all the bees love them!

It's been very interesting to see how much the bumbles prefer native-to-this-region blooming plants.  For example, they were using the single dahlia blooms for nectar and resting . . . . until the asters started and now they have abandoned the dahlias and are all over the asters.   These three male bumbles aren't actually nectaring -- they are hanging out until it warms up a bit.  Such a fun picture!!

  I was surprised to see how many of my beautiful non-native perennial flowers were completely ignored by the bumbles during their bloom periods.  The experience has firmed up my resolve to convert my lovely gardens into a native plant and insect habitat!  All new plants must be native like these little late blooming cuties -- Calico Asters!!

 And while I'm on the subject of "gardens", for years I've been hoarding all the leaves that drop in my yard and using them for winter mulch on my flower beds without realizing how important it was for native insects -- I was mainly being lazy and practical.  Leaving the leaves in the flower beds meant not having to haul them to the street for pickup and saving me money on mulch.  During the past couple winters I've watched webinars about native pollinating insects (bees and such) and learned "leaving the leaves" not only saves me the work and money, it is also good for native insects in my habitat!  HERE is an explanation of why it's a good thing for nature.   This fall I'll be "leaving the leaves" again to enhance the vitality of my little backyard habitat and to save personal energy!!

The arrival of October means I only have three more months to reach my goal of dealing with at least 36 UFO's this year -- finishing 24 of them and eliminating 12 of them.  Turns out I'm really into "eliminating" at the moment -- I'm up to 18 so far?!?  The more I eliminate, the easier it seems to become!  

However, I am a "little" behind on the finishing so to refocus myself, I put this piece up on the design wall where I have to look at it every time I sit down at my sewing machine.  I stalled out on it last year -- I still like the design but the designer's suggested "assembly" process is a problem for me.  Too modern, perhaps?  So I've gone a little bit rogue?!?  Once the polygons are stitched to the background down through the center lines of them, the designer suggested layering it for quilting.  Then the quilting was to be densely spaced vertical lines which would attach the rest of the polygons to the quilt simultaneously.  In my opinion, it would make the finished piece stiffer than I like and so I was reluctant to follow that suggestion.

In an effort to get the project moving, I cleared off the cutting table ( a very rare but satisfying occurrence),
laid the piece flat and pinned everything down.  The designer gave an alternative step -- hand applique the polygons in place but since I'm not loving the process so much at this point, and . . . .
. . . . . . . having just finished that big EPP project by hand I wanted an easier hand stitching project right now.  So I elected to wrestle with this piece at the machine for a few days to topstitch the polygons in place.
That step is finished and the top is back on the design wall waiting for a long afternoon of sewing time to build borders around it, expanding the top into a nice size lap robe.  As I was choosing thread for the topstitching, I realized this piece is basically a classic triad color scheme -- orange,  violet, and green -- which I've used before.  Thinking back to all the lessons I learned working through the book, Color From the Heart by Gai Perry almost two decades ago!  It's still available and a classic for sure!
My fabric palette started with a couple 5" charm paks and leftovers from a layer cake -- all from different designers.  I'm always trying to show that mixing "collections" works just fine.

The hand stitching project I mentioned is to big-stitch quilt the other six EPP blocks I made in 2019 from the #sharksdinner block of the month.  It was easy to pick up since I layered the blocks last December while finishing the first six blocks into a laprobe.  The big stitch quilting is going well and last evening I started quilting the fifth block -- this will be finished soon!!
I have finished quite a few quilts using big-stitch -- it goes quickly and is pleasant to do since the stitch length is a bit loosey-goosey and I love playing with all the heavier pearle cotton threads!
I entered the "matching" lap quilt I finished in December from the other set of these blocks into a local quilt show this weekend.  We are going to see it tomorrow and it will be fun to be back in a quilt show mode -- seeing lots of former customers and students, doing a little shopping, and checking out what everyone has been up to over the past couple years.

On the triplet grandkid front, the first day of nursery school came and went with no meltdowns.  They are so lucky to have a built-in "gang" to hang out with no matter where they go -- a triplet advantage!!  (It's funny how they always seem to line up in birth order from left to right.)
However, I did flunk "Grandma 101" the middle of September by forgetting my oldest grandson's birthday -- had to grovel a bit.  I really need to write everyone's birthdays in my calendar for 2023 so I don't do that again!!!

Keep stitching!!

Friday, September 16, 2022


I'm one of those holdouts -- fall starts on September 22!  The fall quilts and pumpkins don't come out until my calendar says "first day of autumn".

But that's less than a week away -- how did that happen??  I still have summer stuff to do!?!  Which I must say/feel every year . . . . . especially pertaining to the garden.  So this week has been about buckling down and getting those tasks finished.  Every morning, I've made myself start the day with a 30 to 45 minute work session in the front gardens.  And I have to say, I'm happy to be able to do it myself (as long as I don't exceed the 45 minute time frame).  My back is in the best shape it's been for a couple years thanks in a large part to the strength building exercises my physical therapist convinced me to do everyday!

It's so beautiful out there right now, too!!  Check out this pokeberry fruit!  It's a huge plant and many gardeners would chide me for allowing it to persist but I live with the hope that it feeds bees when flowering and birds in the fall -- the cardinals do spend a lot of time foraging in it though I'm not sure if its for the fruit or the insects who may be sucking on the fruit.  A couple years ago, I watched a butterfly suck juice out of the berries -- that could happen again!!

And the native asters and goldenrods are in full bloom drawing in dozens of insects -- butterflies, bees, and beetles with a couple savvy spiders.
The "empty the file cabinet" project is progressing slowly not because I'm not trying but because it's so easy to get distracted by all the projects in that room.  I have finished up four small quilt tops and organized backings to donate to a local guild for their annual charity workday next May.
Four less UFO's and the pile is a bit tidier?!?
I fell a bit behind on Katja Marek's Homage to Grandmothers Flower Garden over the past month so that has been my stitching focus this week -- almost caught up!!  I hope that by the time part #38 is released this Sunday, I'll only be one week behind.  It is in two big pieces at the moment and living on the "extra" design wall.  Since I'm machine piecing it, I'm assembling a few sections and then adding them to the rest so it's less cumbersome at the machine so what you see is two large sections overlapped to fit on the design wall.  There are some beautiful versions happening around the world and if you are an Instagram user, check out the #homagetogfg hashtag to see some of them!
I finished the hand-stitched piecing of Jemina's Creative Quilting's mystery quilt from this past winter a couple days ago.  Whew!!  It's ready for the borders but I'm taking a break from it to hand quilt a UFO that has been patiently waiting for my attention since December.  I used 3/4" hexagons and at this point it's about 52" square.  Next challenge is the "how to quilt" question??
I did have a sweet little finish this past week.  Perhaps twenty years ago, after a very successful machine quilting lesson with Sue . . . . . where is her last name, she lived in Michigan, think brain think . . . . I confidently started making this charming tea cozy.  
But you guessed it, I never finished it.  Each time I uncover it in a studio tidy-up, I set it aside with the intention to finish it but never do.  True to form, I laid it on the cutting table last week to consider it again. 

Happily, as I waffled -- do it or let it go, Mary? -- I came across a tiny Dresden plate teaching sample and as I was putting it into the "orphan blocks" basket, my creative fairy pointed out the size might be a perfect applique for the unfinished cozy?  Sure enough it was and then I got out the pink button jar and while I was playing with the buttons, I noticed another UFO with lots of pearle cotton stitchery embellishment . . . . .
and as only you can understand as a fellow quilter, everything came to a grinding halt while I finished the tea cozy -- in about two hours!
So I owe Marjorie, the designer, an apology for going off the rails but it's wonderful to have it finished and out of the UFO pile!!  Doesn't it look perfect with the tray mat I made last year from orphan blocks?
No doubt, the reason I've never finished this was a fear of not being able to achieve the same degree of machine quilting accuracy since I rarely do anything that detailed anymore.  Often the key to finishing a UFO for me is to let go of the original intention and modify things to my current skills, interest, taste, time, etc.  If I have no need for a king size quilt anymore or I've changed the color scheme of my home, it's okay to finish the blocks I have pieced into a laprobe and put the leftover fabric into the stash (which feels a bit like going on a free shopping trip). Why bludgeon myself into finishing something I don't want anymore -- the time and perhaps money necessary to do that are better spent doing what inspires me currently!  
I've found repurposing, merging, rethinking to be a marvelous creative boost for myself.  
I encourage you to apply a similar strategy to your UFO's by asking yourself "what else could that become"?

Happy Fall (or spring if you are a southerner)

P.S. I think Sue's last name started with a W?  Can you think of it??

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Being Sensible

 Are you sensible?  I think I am (of course) but I suspect there are some who would disagree with that.  My genealogy research documents and notes are starting to take over my desk space and after months of contemplation I think I've come up with a system to organize them but it will require a file cabinet.

So this is the "sensible" part -- rather than buy a new one, there is a two-drawer one up in my studio which would work 

but it's full of pattern design notes and shop newsletters and quilt teaching handouts, etc.  I've been through all these papers a couple times since I closed the shop but not since I quit teaching so it makes sense to do it again.  It's only one and a half drawers full so "how long will it take?"

It will take all afternoon (and then some) because every sheet of paper needs to be reviewed!?!
This is one of my very early handout masters for the quilt I used to teach students how to make half-square triangles -- first we drew a grid on the wrong side of the fabric and then we were delighted with the appearance of "triangle paper" in the late 1980's!!  
I'm going to use those leftover triangle sets from my original sample for a couple cheery potholders . . . . . . . maybe??
The original sample still is alive and well serving as a "slipcover" for an un-upholstered ottoman in the living room under a stack of finished quilts!
Over a dozen of the fatter folders were worksheets, design notes and original masters for a series of quilts I designed as mystery quilts for my shop, Erie Street Quilts, and the original shop hop in Northeast Ohio.  There were lots of memories to be remembered with each folder.  I finished my version of this quilt but I don't think very many of my customers/students did because it was a "bear" -- such small pieces and so many of them.  My version won a ribbon in the regional show and I eventually sold it (I think) -- it's not in the house anymore for sure.  I kept one copy of the final pattern and let go of the notes and worksheets -- just for historical value?
I was surprised to find some folders with teaching notes and step samples -- I thought I had emptied all those out at the beginning of the pandemic and dealt with the samples.  It was delightful to find these three little pieces in the BINDING workshop folder since I need a couple new potholders to replace the ones I burned up last month.  And that little mini-quilt -- I completely forgot it was still  around!  I think I'll use it as a wallhanging somewhere in the house!
When I couldn't sort for another minute or make another decision, I finished the bindings and scored three little finishes!!
Actually, there has been a flurry of finishes over the past couple weeks!!  That's one of the perks on working on several project simultaneously!

This Scrappy Cabins is quilted and washed and ready to gift next week!  It's going to "my" bank clerk -- she is retiring after 35 years and I've been her customer for all of it!
The I Spy quilt is finished and ready to gift to a couple special boys to enjoy as a learning game -- the quilt is loaded with cats and frogs and trucks.  I hope it will be fun for the older one to help the younger one learn colors and objects with this floor quilt.
I also made several of these Modern Japanese Rice Bags.  I've had the pattern from KZStevens (PDF pattern available HERE) and the fabric on the right set aside for it for several years.  It went together so beautifully I found myself wondering why it took me so long to do it?!?  I made one tiny alteration in the depth of the lining (3/8" less) so it fits down inside smoother.  I made two of the one on the right and one is for sale in my Etsy shop!  
The outer shell of the left hand one is four 6" blocks given to me for the 25th anniversary of my shop (in 2004).  I have about 30 blocks and have tried a half dozen times over the years to organize them into a quilt -- I'm always stumped by the challenge and put them away.  So earlier this month, I decided to quit trying to use them together and sorted them out into compatible little sets for smaller projects.  

The rice bag was the first of those little projects and I've been using it as a knitting pouch as I finish up this version of Ysolda's Musselburgh Hat.
Once it's doubled inside on itself, it makes a really cozy hat!!  I made this version with a double strand of fingering wool using one 100 gram skein as the base and adding in an assortment of green, gray, and brown leftovers from lots of socks!  Working with size 4 needles and making an adult large size used up 80 grams of the base yarn and 80 grams of scraps!!
A couple gals are starting a knitalong using this pattern and scrap yarn on September 1 -- you can find the details on Instagram HERE.  It's a satisfying knit with lots of flexibility about yarn weight and needle size!  I think this is my fifth one in less than a year.  

Time to return to the studio and the untidy piles from yesterday -- hopefully I can make more decisions about what goes and what stays.  
I should remind my kids how much I'm helping their future selves by "sensibly"
dealing with this myself, don't you think?

Have a sensible day!!

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Trying for a Restful Weekend

After spending three energetic days with my oldest grandson (almost 14) who came visiting, I've prescribed a restful weekend for myself.  Really, it's just an excuse to sew and knit non-stop!?!

His activity requests were hiking and visiting with his younger cousins, the triplets!  He had three meetups with the triplets including a visit to the Cleveland Zoo.  

One of his aunts and I hiked him up to one of our local beauty spots and on his last day, he and I did a creek hike.  His mom is a biologist who has been taking him along on stream studies since birth and wow, can he spot a crayfish!!  It was a stinky hot day so being in a creek was perfect and I don't think I would have done a creek hike this summer without his request.   This is one of the pictures he took on our adventure.

 While he was here, there was no machine sewing and just a little hand stitching and knitting.  But I did manage to end July with one finish!  After finishing the hand quilting around the central part of each "diamond" motif, I choose this multi-color print for the binding.  I find it's a good solution for quilts with so many colors when I can't decide on the binding color -- unexpected but effective!!

 While he got some quiet time (napping and/or googling), I snuck in a little knitting on the current Musselburgh Hat project.  I'm working with a double strand of fingering yarn combining a few leftovers with one main skein.  Sue Carney just announced on Instagram that she is going to lead a KAL (knitalong) using this hat and scrap yarn.  It begins September 1 and goes for six weeks.  Gives me a goal for finishing this hat so I can start another one!  Want to join?  
EDIT: Two days after I posted this, I "frogged" this hat back to the crown and started over again!?!  It was HUGE because I had misread my gauge -- it would not have fit anyone.  It's so hard to make the decision to undo so much work but it will be best in the long run.

I finished another unit for the EPP project I've got going.  This is half of step 10 -- only step 11 to go!!!
And the I-Spy UFO is layered and being quilted this weekend!  I have interlined it with a (much washed) flannel sheet instead of batting -- economical and I think it will make a good floor mat for playing I Spy with kids!
The "restful" weekend started after lunch Friday and found me piecing on two projects -- Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden continues to grow and I made three more scrappy log cabin blocks as my "leaders/enders" while building chains of hexagons for part 31 of Homage.
I put the finished blocks on the design wall to determine what the last six blocks needed to "be" -- I've learned the hard way when making scrappy quilts that I like the results betters when I stop to evaluate and make the final fabric decisions based on what the quilt "needs".  
I made three more with some dark prints as what was already pieced looked out of balance with so few darks used.  Once I added the new blocks to the group, I moved blocks around to break up the big (blobby) areas of pink.  There are just three blocks left to piece and it would be wonderful to have this quilt top ready to quilt by the end of the weekend.  I'm going to gift it as a retirement present and the big day is September 10 so need to keep moving!!
The color and fabric palette has evolved as I've worked on this project -- I started with a couple old charm square paks, some leftover layer cake squares and strips from my 2 1/2" "sourdough" box.  The pattern writer suggests cutting everything before starting, but I've been cutting as I go -- that means more spontaneity because it's hard to "visualize" what I haven't pieced.  And there is less waste because I'm cutting just what I need as I go.   I also find it easier to achieve a scrap look by just focusing on the fabric palette for a couple blocks at a time -- as long as I like the combination in one block, it will work in the finished quilt.  Each diagonal row (upper left to lower right) is the same block configuration but it's interesting how the "look" of the block changes depending on the placement of lights and darks.
It's a simple quilt and a good chance to stretch my creative brain -- feeling creative doesn't happen without exercising ideas and making mistakes.

So, it's time to head back to the studio for a couple hours of piecing.
Hope you are having a restful and content weekend!


Friday, July 15, 2022

I Got Nothing . . . . .

 . . . . . well, almost nothing.   That's what I started to share last evening and so I stopped.  Why would anyone read about "nothing".   24 hours later, I've regained my perspective and am going to try again!!

Since we've had a virus surge nearby, I've spent lots more time on my own again the past couple weeks  but the weather has been pleasant (though we could use more rain) and bits of progress have been made on various projects.   In spite of spending more time watering the vegetables and berry bushes than I'd like, I finished attaching part 9 of the mystery EPP quilt from Jemima's Creative Quilting in Australia -- currently cutting and basting for part 10 and auditioning fabric for part 11!!  It's going a little slower than planned because I need to pamper the arthritic left thumb but progress just the same.

Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden is progressing nicely and these leaf units no longer intimidate me.  I did another stash dive looking for more light blues -- I'm burning through them steadily and don't think I'll have much of those left when this project is done.  Week 28 pieced and waiting for week 29 instructions!

I made some progress on this I Spy from the UFO stash -- units pieced, rows laid out and starting to set them together -- just need to figure out the shapes to cut for the ends of the rows!  This is an old pattern that was originally in a book, PS, I Love You, Two.  Marti Michell included it in her booklet, Six is for Hexagons and I'm using the large hexagon in Set G.  It's easy piecing and soon will no longer be a UFO!!

 I squished Homage to one side on the design wall so I could lay out the I Spy.  
Then a new quilt caught my eye on Instagram -- easy piecing and scrappy, so why not start it?  But with no space on the primary design wall (or the secondary one for that matter) it will have to "grow" on the backup design wall -- the floor.
It's a "sew-along" called Scrappy Cabins from Sew Lux, an on-line fabric shop -- the pattern is a free download.  I started with a couple charm paks, some leftover layer cake squares, and my box of 
2 1/2" strips -- the cutting table is a mess but the blocks work well as sew-offs for my set-in piecing of Homage units.  One stone, two birds??
"Hermit-ing" with my stitching has led to some unusual contemplation -- I rarely listen to or watch anything while sewing -- just quiet thinking most of the time.  But this week I've been thinking about my grandmothers and memories I have of them (no sewing involved -- just stories and food) which led me to think about other "mentors" of my youth and to realize there were more than I usually recall -- Sunday school teachers, church ladies, the sewing teacher, scout leaders.

Since the EPP project is too big to tote around at this point, I decided to start another Musselburgh hat.  I dug through my fingering yarn stash -- full skeins and leftovers -- to put together a combination that I'll knit holding two strands of yarn together.  It should go faster than the last one and my color inspiration is the High Desert Socks from Larkspur knits!
While I was sitting on the floor rummaging through the yarn stash, I noticed this box sitting behind my sewing table?
Is that another UFO?!?
Is it on the list?  NO!?!
But look there's a plan! 
Not sure I like the plan at this point, so we'll see?

This weekend I'll be avoiding people some more and looking for bumble bees as part of a nationwide survey blitz, hanging out with my stitching, and trying to set up an ice cream meet-up with this little gang!!

Carry on!!