Friday, July 23, 2021

Re-entry and a "pin ball" life style

Hi, there -- July seems to be rushing along, doesn't it?  I'm not always a fan of July, but this year it could be longer or go slower?  We had a bunch of rain which has made the gardens lush and productive and the success of my gardening this summer has me out there more than ever.

I love turning into my driveway because at this time of year, it looks like I live out in the country, not in a suburb.
The flowers are throbbing with interesting insects and it's "bio-blitz" season for bees and butterflies so I'm looking for "new-to-me" specimens and trying to learn to ID bumblebees on the fly (birds are easier).
Monarch butterfly fostering season is in full swing -- 15 so far with more coming!
They are quite ravenous and I'm glad I have so much milkweed growing in my garden!
How many caterpillars can you find?
There's been some hard news among friends this month -- illnesses mostly and a death, but having a chance to spend time with my children and their families has kept me in a good place.  My oldest grandson stayed with me for a few days -- so much fun!!  It was the first time he had been with the triplets since they were six months old!  It didn't take long for them to bond!!

Marching through the Zoo!!

His visit ended with an "all-family" camping gathering and it was fun to watch everyone enjoy doing things together - swimming, coloring, talking, eating!!
Eighteen months without having all of them together was too long and I hope we don't have a repeat of that!!
The rest of life is like a "pin ball" game -- my mind doesn't settle in one place for long and I hope it's just the result of more freedom to move about.  My "to-do" lists are shorter in length and spread over a longer time span -- about a dozen tasks I hope to accomplish over the course of a week instead of long daily lists. It's challenging to make it from point A to point B without stopping to do "something else" -- go upstairs to take a picture for the blog and "oh, that fabric will be the perfect binding";
taking the trash out and weeding along the way; going down to the laundry and coming back with a popsicle -- tell me you still eat popsicles!!

It seems okay right now, this pin ball approach -- lots of little things are getting done and eventually I make it through the list.  The list keeps me focused but the detours are okay, too.
 (Shortly, I'll be able to cross "write blogpost" off the list because the end of this week looms large!!)

The "stitching" part of my life is focused on two goals this month -- finish quilt top number 11 (that's why I picked out that binding fabric) and finish quilt top number 12.   Last week was rainy and now a cooler week have enabled me to stay focused on hand quilting my dodecagon top .  Last evening, I calculated how much area is left and with just a bit over a week July, I believe I can accomplish this!!  Might not get it bound but that's a piece of cake.  I started the hand quilting early in January.
These two finishes will put me 57% of the way to my #quilt21in2021 goal in a timespan of 58% of the year ( I love to calculate nerdy little numbers like that).  But as you know, the first half of a goal is always easier than the second half.  So still nine quilt tops to go.  I have decided to send out one top for sure and maybe two to be quilted for me.  I'd like to be finished in November before the holiday sewing itch makes it's annual appearance.

I've not done any serious piecing all year with my focus on quilting and I'm really, really, really getting the itch to do some piecing right now.  This needs to get off the design wall  . . . . . . .
and a couple new projects . . . . okay, four new projects . . .  are vying for my attention?!?
I actually sorted this layer cake into possible block combos a couple days ago for a new pattern
and a weekly series of block patterns are being accumulated for this layer cake???
Like I said, a pin ball brain.

I hope you are finding a comfortable pace for re-entry into public life.  I attended a large funeral yesterday and was surprised by how anxious I became -- actually went home at the end of the service, had a cup of tea and knit a few rows of a sock, then returned for the after-gathering.  Some around me seem to be back to full throttle but I'm pretty content to stay close to home and focus on the most important folks in my life.  I am heading out next week to do a presentation for a local quilt guild about my push to #quilt21in2021 -- first public talk in 3 years -- I hope my speaking skill isn't too rusty!

I believe it's important to determine our own re-entry pace.  Whether it's the limited preferences of an introvert who has found a new understanding of how comfortable they are with themselves or the ecstatic pace of an extrovert who has spent the past year and half chaffing at the bit, there is no right or wrong way to do it.  What is best for you is okay!!  I'm definitely trying to think through the personal impacts of this curious period of time we are traversing and embrace the best of it and learn from the hardest of it.  I won't go back to everything.  I'll focus on the most important to me aspects of my life. 

What revelations have you had that you hope to carry forward with you?

I'll be back in a week or so with some serious pictures of these two finishes that are on the horizon!!

Mary 

(While writing and editing this post, I watered the front gardens, started supper including finishing up sourdough baguettes, ate a coffee popsicle, and answered a couple texts messages.)















Monday, June 28, 2021

June -- Where Did it Go?!?

 Three days left and in spite of my good intentions to get at least one top quilted this month, this is as far as I've gotten . . . . . and that just happened an hour ago!?!  This is (I think) my last unquilted sample from several years of teaching with Gai Perry's fabulous book, Color From The Heart.

As I was pin-basting it, I thought about how to quilt it and what color thread to use -- have some good ideas already and was primed to start right away.
But apparently the family genealogist is using that table to organize files . . . yea!?!
Time to retrench the goals for today!
I have been knitting most days this month -- one pair of socks is on it's way to my kid sister for her birthday and these two projects are around the halfway point -- one requires no concentration and the other has a detailed chart that demands my full attention.
June has been all about my garden!  
It didn't require all the time you might think, but it did require all the energy I could muster some days and a state of collapse - physical and mental - was a daily occurrence.  The month reinforced my understanding that one can't add something to one's life without letting something go -- time and energy are very finite commodities, aren't they?

The garden tour was yesterday!!
Sponsored by the Northern Ohio Perennial Society, I was intimidated by the specter of "master gardeners" leaving their immaculate turf and well-mulched beds to point out my faults.
Of course, it wasn't that way at all!!

No one chided me for my "messy" insect friendly turf or lack of sweeping vistas.  The most frequent comment I heard was "it's so tranquil".  YES!!!
If you've followed me for a while, you've seen lots of garden pics and while it's peak bloom is a week off yet, it does look good right now.

The new front yard veggie bed is coming around -- I still have the smallest kale in the world . . . 
. . . .but the tomatoes are blooming and the beans are growing steadily.
I've given up trying to figure out how to move this vigorous purple coneflower growing up through a crack in the brick side walk by my front steps and added pots to capitalize on it's beauty.
And if you notice in the back, I've cut back my blackspot infested rambler -- that was hard!
But I hope putting my energy into sterilizing the soil around it instead of trying to manage the leaf damage all summer (very depressing) will build it back up -- we'll see??
This bear's breeches finally bloomed this year -- it's been there for about 5 years and I may have threatened it with bodily harm last year if it didn't start to flower.
My native honeysuckle which seemed to be a lost cause last spring has come back much to my delight and surprise.  Last summer, the trellis was covered with blue morning glories and I've fully expected a few rouge seedlings to emerge but nothing so far.
And here's a couple glimpses of the "tranquil" piece!!  
Not much bloom color yet, but quite lush and I'm loving my new brick edging!!
I figure I can just enjoy my garden this week and have more sewing time (once I get that table cleared off) plus the house tidying has definitely suffered.   
Peas harvested, and tub replanted with a new variety of zucchini.
First cucumber has appeared!
The currants are ready to pick, too!!
Our food pantry garden is starting to thrive but the weed pressure requires intense attention!
Butterflies are not abundant here so far this summer -- even the #/*? cabbage whites are scarce.  But I did find this black swallowtail as a caterpillar on some parsley and fostered her up to adulthood safely. Isn't she a beauty -- must plant more parsley!!
And of course, all posts must end with cuteness!!  
This is from an attempt to get a group picture with the triplets at our birthday supper early in June -- there is a long series of photos and we never got the "pose" organized but we had fun!!
Can't wait to get all five of my grands together next month!!
Get out there and finish June strong!!

Mary

P.S.  I have continued the hand quilting journey on my big dodecagon -- was hoping to share it with you then end of June, but I am impressed that I'm 75% of the way along.
Maybe the end of July???
















Thursday, June 3, 2021

Slow Work May

At the beginning of May as I got ready to layer up quilt number nine in my #quilt21in2021 quest, I didn't feel very enthusiastic.  I thought about taking the month off but knowing myself as I do, I was afraid I'd lose my momentum altogether so I chose a small quilt.  

After all,  the garden was constantly calling to "come out and play"!

I've (perhaps foolishly) agreed to open my garden for the local perennial garden group in late June so there is a deadline for weeding and mulching which I've never had before this.  Their impressions should be interesting since I'm currently moving away from the "standard" perennials and rewilding the gardens with more native plants.  

And of course, there is a long list of ideas for garden upgrades and improvements.  The new veggie raised bed is up and running in the sunniest part of the front yard 

and I've just finished redoing the brick edging along one of the back beds.
I have perhaps watched more gardening videos during the winter than an old lady who lives alone should???  So much inspiration!!  
No comments yet from the neighbors about the veggie bed -- do they not get it or is it just the "crazy old lady" again??

So with all the garden playtime, doing just one quilt in May was the perfect strategy!  
Number nine is finished.

The blocks were pieced with Marti Michell's templates as a teaching sample for my Bride's Bouquet (or Nosegay block) workshops.  They are 6" blocks rather than the traditional 12" blocks and there were suppose to be nine blocks.  As is often the case with quilters who have "too many oars out of the boat" one of the blocks disappeared?!?  Rather than make another block, I organized this setting.

I thought I wrote a post about this but so far, I haven't found it.  If/when I do, I'll add a link.
Basically, it's a 9 block setting -- the center block is the hexie flower applique set on point with four floral triangles.  
The four corner blocks are a bride's bouquet block with "sashing" rectangles and a pink cornerstone.  The four remaining bouquet blocks are set on point with two floral triangles and two background triangles.  
When all the blocks are set together, the large floral star emerges.  Feel free to knock off this idea!  It will work with any group of 8 quilt blocks!

Since the quilt top was only 31" square, I decided to work on my domestic machine and give George the month off.  I used a combination of free motion and walking foot quilting.  I have better control on small pieces on my domestic machine so I took the opportunity to fill the corners with feathers.

Here's how I customized the feather to the space available by making my own arc template starting  with a paper triangle. . . . .  


. . . . . which I folded and drew arcs until I got one I liked.

 I cut the arc with the triangle still folded in half to keep it symmetrical.
The fold line helped me center it on the quilt top and I matched the straight edge of the paper template to the same spot on each of the pieced blocks.
You can barely see my arc line here.
I decided it was important to make the end tear drop shapes uniform and so did a deep dive into the "miscellany" drawer -- i.e., stuff I rarely use but am loath to let go.
Bingo!!
It's really an applique tool, but a teardrop is a teardrop.
Final step -- work up the courage to do freehand feathers (which took longer than necessary in the end).
I already had binding fabric chosen so the binding went quickly and "ta-da", it's finished!!

In other news, the peas are blooming
and the stawberries are ripening
and the triplets turned two yesterday!!
I also got to see my two older grandchildren on Monday for the first time in 17 months!!!  It was a wonderful visit, to be able to just sit and talk with them -- the 15 year old didn't roll her eyes at me once!!  I invited them for a summer visit on their own and so the hangout plans begin!!

I'm so grateful to have my closest friends and family vaccinated so we can move forward together.  If you are hesitant to vaccinate, I encourage you to reconsider.  It's been interesting over the past couple months as I listen to the vaccinate/not vaccinate conversations.  It has brought up memories of polio which struck hard in this area when I was 5.  I'm startled that I can remember the stringent warnings from my parents to "not go down the street near that house" because their son at age 6 had contracted polio.  I was 5?!?  I'm sure some of you remember too the elation of our families when the vaccines arrived -- 3rd grade in a line, the whole class getting the sugar cubes with the oral vaccine.  By the 1970's when my children were born, thank goodness the vaccine was the norm and that's where we need to get to with Covid.  
It needs to be just like small pox and tetanus and polio and rubella -- very rare!
The health and safety of our populations need to not be about politics, it needs to be about compassion.

And with that little rant, I'll sign off and go chose quilt number 10 from my shrinking stack.
Have a good weekend!
Mary







Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Meet My Hexie Mashup!

 This morning, I'm being a bit lazy and doing the hand stitching of the binding on finish #8 for my #quilt21in2021 effort.  It's my hexie mashup quilt that is the result of merging two UFO's.

I machine quilted it with a simple and straight forward plan for two reasons -- to get it done and to not "ruin" it with sloppy fancy quilting.  

By using a simple grid of equilateral triangles, I could use the piecing as a guide so no marking was necessary and minimal thinking was involved (which too much of that can shut me down). 

The large central motif halted me for a few days while I pondered an "awesome" feathered treatment for the quilting . . . . . . . 
 . . . . . . but once I listened to my practical brain, I settled for a simpler solution that outlined the large six-pointed star motif with a few primitive feathers around the outer edges -- truer to my style.
(Sorry about the photo tilt - I don't spend enough time taking my pictures -- just point and shot.)
Combining two UFO's has resulted in a very acceptable quilt!  About half of the blocks were pieced in 2016 as I stitched along with Barbara Brackman in her Morris Hexathon.  It was intended to be a hand-pieced project but I was showing-off my y-seams simplified skills and all the posts I wrote while doing these blocks are gathered up under the MORRIS HEXATHON tab on the blog -- see it up there in the banner?  While I was doing research for today's post, I came across an old post from early 2017 where I was (unsuccessfully) contemplating settings for that group of blocks -- glad I aborted that mission. 
You might find it an encouraging post to read -- click HERE!?!

All of the (awesome) fussy cut hexagon motifs were pieced (again by machine instead of EPP) during an Instagram #fussycuttingsewalong during 2018 hosted by @naomialicec.  She continues to host EPP sewalongs annually with a difference focus each year and I learned a lot playing with her ideas.

It was fun to be nose-down with some of these blocks during the quilting process.
Every one of these blocks is the result of exploring fabrics with a hexie shape window and a pair of mirrors auditioning for patterns hidden in the fabric.
Merging UFO's is one of my favorite strategies for eliminating UFO's as it always leads to such creative quilts.  One of the keys to a successful merger is "similar fabric style".  Both of these sets of blocks drew heavily from my traditional reproduction prints so they blended together easily.
Color can be another unifying factor and it was true serendipity that these two sets of blocks were the same size!  A match made in heaven.
The approach that aggravated me the most was the one that generated some of my favorite blocks once I figured out the easiest way to set up the cutting.  This one inspired the large center star motif.  Happily I shared a post about it (so I don't forget how to do it) which you can revisit HERE.
The outcome of the past couple weeks of stitching hasn't just yielded another finished quilt.  Now I have the itch to play with hexies and fussy cutting again.  
We'll see if I give in to the itch!

So here's a wobbly picture of the finished quilt.
(Please note, I'm stood on the coffee table and it's sideways because it's too drizzly here today for outdoor pictures.)
The quilt is soft and cozy as a result of the simple quilting.  
It finished at 66" by 80" and will be a lovely piece to hang in the living room or snuggle under for a couch nap.  
I merged two sets of blocks into one quilt plus I used up about 6 yards of stash fabric for the borders, backing, and binding -- 
win, win, win, in my book!!

Are you testing out "normal" these days? 
 I've been fully vaccinated since the end of March but uncertain about moving back out into a more normal routine.  First of all, I'm quite content puttering around at home and having almost no responsibilities so re-entry doesn't feel urgent.
But yesterday, I had a birding date with my long time buddies and as chance would have it, it was an good migration fall-out morning at the location we chose over a week ago.
That meant, the area was throbbing with birders and there we all were, cheery and excited, helping one another find "the bird", sharing tips, having a spontaneous picnic lunch together.
It was awesome!!

So I hope all of you can have those uplifting experiences very soon!!
Encourage folks you love to vaccinate if they are able and help us all get back to a full life!

Mary