Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More birding -- no stitching!!

Just a bit of knitting this weekend but oh, the birding was good!!
I'm just home from a long birding weekend in Cape May, NJ – a bit tired so this may be a bit short.  Cape May is at the southern tip of New Jersey between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cheasapeake Bay in the eastern USA.  For many years, it has been a popular birding destination during spring and fall migrations.  We drove about 1200 miles and birded more or less from dawn to dusk Saturday and Sunday with a morning of it along the coast on the way home yesterday.  Whew!!
This has to be one of my favorite images – mental and photographically – of the trip.  Those are all tail ends of Pintail ducks feeding.  There are over 40 in this picture and there were probably 400 altogether in this area – same position – hardly coming up for air.  I found it quite humorous.
Here'a a picture of what they look like when they aren't bottoms-up -- quite a handsome creature!!
We had a total of 84 species – pretty good considering most of the small song birds have already migrated out of the region.  Fall is almost as challenging a time to bird as spring since the majority of the birds seen are migrating meaning that identifications can be more work since they are birds I don’t see every day.  We were pretty pleased with ourselves as we had to puzzle out about a dozen species that are pretty non-descript at first glance like these shorebirds – gray blobs?  One can tell there are two species because of the size differences but the best field mark at this time of year is the beak – do you see a beak?  We did finally get a peek at their beaks after 5 minutes of watching them through a scope and after lots of page flipping in three field guides, we ferreted out what we are pretty sure they are.
There were still a surprising number of butterflies out and about in the area – the location moderates the climate allowing for a longer insect season that we have here in Northeast Ohio.  There were quite a few Monarchs floating around and lots of these which are called Buckeyes.  The interesting thing about these was that I rarely see one so seeing dozens was astonishing to me.
As I was reviewing my photos this morning, I am as pleased with the background colors around this creature as I am with the clarity of the butterfly!!
These are snowy egrets – very pretty – about half the size of a great blue heron if you know that bird.  I was a bit tired by the time we spotted them and could not think of their name -- out popped “fluffy egret” so for the rest of the day, we referred to them as “fluffy” egrets whenever we saw them.
This great blue heron didn't look as awake as the egrets -- he actually looks like he would rather be somewhere warmer don't you think?
 It's back to the studio and the garden.  Today's goal is to finish quilting a small piece and start getting ready for a teaching trip in November. 
And there might be a walk in the woods, too!!
Mary Huey


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Torn between Fall and Stitching . . . . .

It's fall here in Northeast Ohio, USA!!
We are lucky because we just need to step outside to enjoy beautiful autumn color. 
The changing light and the leaves makes everything glow on a sunny day.
Even an overcast day can has it's own special charm.
Combine all that with mild temperatures, dry weather, and the urgency of knowing this won't last, it's hard for me to stay inside.
So for the past 10 days, there has been more walking and gardening than stitching. 
My bird feeders are back up for the cold months and this red-bellied woodpecker was the first to rediscover a local source of raw shelled peanuts (though he's fine with unshelled, too).
The pileated woodpeckers have also returned to the neighborhood.  This large (the size of a chicken) bird is something of a gypsy but the large trunk of a neighbor's dead oak is just what he likes.
One shout from this bird and I'm out the back door with binoculars or camera in hand!
There are now daily walks in near-by woodlands to enjoy -- scuffing through the leaves, looking for the red leaves of sassafras, black gum, and sugar maple.  It reminded me to put this small piece up in the living room.  The label says I pieced it in 2004 after a lovely morning deep in the woods with a light breeze that was showering me with falling leaves.  I came home and spent the afternoon recreating an image of how the floor of the forest appeared -- mostly yellow leaves with a scattering of reds and greens on top of the brown leaves that had been down for several days.
Looking at this piece conjures up tangible memories and I strive every year to recapture that morning again returning to a woodland at this slightest hint of a breeze.
And while I was hanging the piece, I made time to tidy up the quilt cupboard in the living room which had been torn asunder by lecture prepping for my fall teaching gigs.
When I did get into the studio, I focused on setting the blocks from my orchid kaleidoscope quilt together.  At this point, I have them in four quadrants and need to decide if this is the point to stop, layer, and quilt or do I do two more seams so that I'm quilting two halves.
I found enough of this fabric on the "big hunks" shelf to make the backing.   Actually, it's more like it found the quilt -- it was laying on the floor in front of the work wall -- must have been there from a previous audition?? 
I used some odd moments of free time to cut more of the pieces needed for the Drunkard's Path UFQ that is my October APQ Resolution Challenge. . . .
. . . . so that I could assemble more of the needed units as my "sew-offs" while setting the kaleidoscope blocks together.  Net gain is everything needed is cut and 30 of the 118 units are pieced.  Progress in spite of myself!!
The threat of a frost around here is a great spur for me to get the plants that I winter over cleaned up and moved inside.  This year, it seems there are more plants than last (but I expect that's the case every year) and some earlier tidying in the basement reunited me with this shelf unit that I used when I was vending at quilt shows back in my shop keeping days.
Perfect, perfect, perfect expansion of the sunny south bay window in the dining room.
Even my son noticed it and commented on how good it looks!!
The big success of the week is the front door!!  Wednesday was the last day predicted to be warm enough for the third coat of urethane to dry quickly so it took precedent proving once again "there is nothing like a deadline"!!  I had to sand off the old finish, re-stain the lower half of the door (bleached out by the daily dose of western sun) before starting the three layers of new urethane.  My Dad was likely looking down and rolling his eyes at my lack of perfection, but I'm pretty content with the job.  After all, I'm a piecer?!?
There is still lots of cutting back to do in the gardens but I don't need nice weather to do that so I'm off for a weekend of birding in Cape May, NJ with my science nerd, dentist friend. 
Taking some knitting along (momma needs new socks).
I hope your weekend is devoted to enjoying the transition of the seasons in your part of the world --
autumn or spring!!
Mary Huey



Friday, October 16, 2015

Retreat UFQ Stitching

Several years ago, I took this beautiful orchid print to my winter retreat to have Kathy and Syd help me "stack and whack" it.  They are geniuses at it and since I do it infrequently, it's easiest to lean on their expertise.  Kathy could probably say exactly how long ago it was, but I'm going to guess 5 years.  I cut it with Marti Michell's Kaleido-ruler. 
Here are some scraps of the print -- forgot to take a picture of the big piece I had left before cutting it up for the border pieces.
Almost immediately, I decided I had ruined the fabric because I couldn't find any other print to use with it for the setting pieces.  This year, I put the project on my APQ Resolution list and it's number was drawn in August.  It's been sitting on my work table ever since as I strained to audition compatible fabrics.   For six weeks or more, it has haunted me so as I packed for the fall retreat last week, I decided to make it my priority project. 
The plan has long been to use Marti's cover pattern from Kaleidoscope ABC's and my first thought was to work with solids for the other fabrics.  After weeks of not making that click for me, I started pulling prints out of my stash that more or less matched the colors in the orchid print.  Two days before I left for the retreat, everything finally fell into place and I was able to pack a stack of possible prints and make a sketch of a potential color layout.
To my great surprise, I was the first to arrive -- look at all this space!!  I entertained myself by contemplating what it might be like to have this entire room as a studio . . . .
I got to work cutting piles of light greens into wedges
and medium greens into corner triangles. 
My sketch had lots of blank spaces and I started stitching with a flexible attitude expecting the values and color choices to become clearer once I saw the kaleidoscopes stitched together. 
The carpet presented a visual challenge as you can see but the sketch kept me on track.  I wouldn't have enough of the kaleidoscope blocks so I added five "stars" in pinks and golds.
Marti's instructions are very specific and piecing these blocks is a breeze when you follow them exactly.  This is the third quilt I've made using her tool and instructions.  At one point, she encourages you to "stop at the dot" and in the past I've struggled with this step.  (She offers an alternate strategy.)
But this time, the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique enabled me to negotiate that stop perfectly!!
A quick pivot and I was all set to stitch onto the next piece. 
What a difference it make in the flatness of the center to be able to swirl the seams and I'm delighted to find another application for the technique!
By mid-day Saturday, it was all coming together and I was excited with the results.  The greens were perfect for setting off the kaleidoscopes which are beautiful!
Here are a few close-ups!
 I've taken pictures of them several times and must not have a steady hand so the pics are a bit blurry.
I'm so delighted with the results, I started daydreaming about cutting up another hunk of fabric?!? 
By the end of the day Saturday, I had everything cut and over half the blocks pieced.
Once I got home, I finished the piecing and arranged the blocks on my workwall (and the floor).
I'm currently setting the blocks together -- thinking I will assemble it into two "halves", then quilt those sections (easier to wrestle with at my machine).  Once they are quilted, I'll join the halves, finish the backing, and quilt the central area.  I use Marti Michell's book, Machine Quilting in Sections as my guidebook when doing this.
It is currently 70" by 90" and I don't think I'll add another border though as I look at the picture, if I could find just the right stripe???  We'll see?
It's a delight to move forward with this quilt and find that I didn't ruin the fabric after all.  I'm also reminded that my "style" is to work with a large variety of prints and not get too tight about the exact shades of color -- close is good for me because value is what makes or breaks the design in my work.   I'm glad I scrapped the solids idea.
I'm so excited about the progress I've made on this project that it just might push ahead of several other pieces and get quilted next!!
Have a pieceful weekend!!
Mary Huey


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fourth Quarter Finishing Goals

My finishing average for the third quarter was about 38% but I'm not going to back down from setting big goals.  I think the goals are encouraging me to finish more than I would otherwise.  What I should do is pick projects that have other deadlines!?!
Good idea!!  So I'm going forward with three of the projects from the third quarter and four new ones from my 2015 list for the APQ Challenge that began in January. 
The roll overs from the third quarter include:
The epic applique -- currently (hand) quilting the sashing and borders -- I can finish this!! 
My son's Ohio Bicentennial quilt -- it's layered and I know how I'm going to quilt it!! 
Nat's Sunflower -- I think this might be a Christmas gift for someone and I'd like to teach a workshop using this design with the Set-in Piecing Simplified techniques this fall.
This is one of three small quilts I'm making from a set of 23 pieced blocks -- not sure I will get all three finished before the end of the year, but I'll get one done for sure as a donation to my group's annual Christmas quilt campaign.
My oldest daughter made a full size version of my pattern, Mississippi Mud which was stolen from her home about 10 years ago.  She started a second one to replace it but has lost heart along the way several times -- not hard to understand.  I'm going to try to finish it for her this winter!
This was the APQ Challenge pull for August and I made tremendous progress on it this past weekend during a retreat!!  (More about it on Friday.)  I'm so startled by the success of it that I think it's going to be a fast finish!!
And finally, the APQ Challenge pull for October -- not a big quilt -- awfully cute!!  Think if I use the drunkard's path units as "sew-offs" while I finish the kaleidoscope, the curves will feel less overwhelming. 
Feeling very confident!!
Are setting some finishing goals for the remainder of 2015?
Fall weather is pushing me inside!!
Mary Huey


Friday, October 9, 2015

My First Mini-Swap!!

A couple weeks ago, I shared some of my work in creating this mini quilt for the Kaffe Mini Quilt Swap.
It is now in it's new home with Debi. 
I've been waiting patiently for mine to arrive and Thursday morning, the mailman brought a bright yellow box all the way from Brazil!!
So exciting -- like Christmas!!
Look at all these little gems -- charming owl buttons, three hunks of fabric that will push me outside my box, and a bag of sweet treats (those yellow squares are yummy peanut confections).
When I pulled the white tissue open, there was a modern wallhanging with three funky "kaffe" birds and lots of quilting!
It's safe to say that Iara picked up on my "bird" thing and her tree full will fit perfectly with my studio art which consists mainly of three large Charley Harper bird posters
Each one has embroidered details and of course, they will all need named. 
They remind me of the antpittas I saw in Costa Rica, so I "googled" to see if there are antpittas in Brazil -- yes!!
So the thinking has begun!!
It was my first mini-swap and getting mine was the most fun!!  I can see why quilters get hooked on these.  I'm not going to join another one this fall but after the first of the year, I might look around for another one.
Off to a stitching retreat this weekend.  No doubt I have packed more than I'll accomplish but one of them is a "stack & whack" that has been cut out for several years and after looking at it laying on my work table for a month, I've had a brainstorm and made a sketch!!  Hopefully, I'll be sharing the first looks at it with you next week.
I hope there is some stitching time in your weekend!
Mary Huey

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Courthouse Stars -- Pattern Release!!

Ten years ago, just before I closed Erie Street Quilts in Willoughby, Ohio I wrote one final mystery quilt for my loyal customers. 

Courthouse Stars

This is the original version and it still grabs people's attention. 
 Clear, clean contrast is a trigger for me and it must be for lots of other folks. 
My students results (as seen below) were so exciting that I consolidated all the steps together into a pattern which I've been teaching and selling ever since. 
This spring I began my third version as a teaching sample for my 2015 workshops choosing fabrics for an updated look.  I wrote about that HERE.
It's still in the same state -- because I still have workshops booked it's will need to keep working as the step samples.  As a matter of fact, that is where I am today -- teaching this workshop.   The focus of the workshop is learning to use Marti Michell's Log Cabin rulers and tackling the "fast, easy flying geese" technique (which  I shared some tips about HERE)
Since I've "retired" from vending at face-to-face quilting events, I've decided to add the full pattern to my Craftsy store for easy downloading!! 
For those of you with significant fabric assortments at your fingertips, the blocks lend themselves to a "scrappy" fabric pull and you may only need to purchase some yardage for the outer border.
The quilt also lends itself easily to machine quilting in sections -- I did the green and brown one in four "crib" size sections making it very manageable on my basic home size machine.
And of course, I'm happy to answer any questions about the pattern should you decide to purchase it and give it a go. 
Mary Huey