Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April Ends -- Progress on Most Fronts?

Just 5 days left of this puzzling month of April here in Northeast Ohio. 
If you read me regularly, you know I'm distracted from my studio in a big way during spring between birding and gardening.  Spring has been progressing at a breakneck pace here (thanks to global warming) and there have been moments of panic (that I won't get things done "in time") and dismay (that I'll miss something), but a Baltimore oriole just sang out in my back yard and in spite of the fact that he is almost two weeks early, I'm thrilled to hear his song!!

My enthusiastic white primroses are glorious right now!
The new garden trough is ready to plant -- I'm eager to see how this works for me!!
I appreciate not needing to bend over!! 
My son put new tubes in the tires and a new seat on my bike, so I'm ready to roll!! 
We organized the new rain barrel (more attractive than the big blue recycled one) by the back door and installed a rain chain -- hope that works well!! 
The dwarf crested iris came through another winter and are currently brightening the corner by the backyard sidewalk. 
The strawberry plants came through the winter in their boxes and are beginning to bloom -- we might have strawberries to eat by the end of May?? 
Check out the blue accents in these purple iris -- glorious! 
The pond is filled with American toad tadpoles (at least 300) and the marsh marigolds look brilliant in the mushy corner where the robins are harvesting mud for their nests. 
My trillium patch has escaped the notice of the local deer and giving me time to spray with repellant -- thank you!! 
I've forsaken my usual hand stitching/knitting in the evening to work at the machine in the studio the past week (something has to give, right?).

I finished this UFO to donate to a local group for their annual fundraiser in support of cancer research.  A set of 4 reversible placemats and coordinated napkins.
I started this as a demonstration sample using Marti Michell's Tesselating Windmill tool and a charm square pack -- love that tool as there is no wasted fabric!!  These blocks are 3" finished and the tool has a range of 2" to 9" with complete instructions. 
The backing is a wonderful Hoffman print I've been hoarding for who knows how long and isn't that stripe perfect!!  Just bought it!  Perfect example of merging 3 collections of fabric printed years apart together smoothly!! 
I also pieced the Plus a Star block for the Jen Kingwell Long Time Gone SAL. 
It took me most of two evenings to organize and cut the pieces?!?
I chain pieced the rows as always but when I started to get lost, I remembered a trick we figured out several years ago when piecing log cabin blocks and put it to use.  The bobbin is my "place marker" and indicates the next piece to be picked up for stitching.  As long as I remember to move the bobbin, it works like a charm.  (It helps that I had to move the bobbin to pick the piece up.)
Everything is in the right spot! 
And finished -- took less than an hour to stitch! 
Here's my progress so far!  3" Churn Dash blocks are up next! 
This morning, I loaded five boxes of "destashed" fabric and a box of quilt books into my SUV.  We are headed to my town's annual EcoFair Flea Market this Saturday morning (please no rain). It's in the parking lot in front of the Willoughby City Hall from 8 a.m. to noon -- lots of nice fabric so stop by if you are in the area.   
Now I can go bird the nearest woods for a bit before heading off to a 70th birthday lunch date (her's not mine yet) with a life long friend.
Looking forward to May!!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Little AWOL From the Studio

Spring is coming at me so fast here in Northeast Ohio -- a bit alarming in some respects!
I hate to miss any of my favorite spring sights, so have been out birding and walking for a couple hours everyday for the past two weeks.
My studio might be missing me?
Yesterday, I headed out to survey an area for birds that I have been visiting and keeping data for 7 years.  It is about 25 miles from home and in the end, it became a spontaneous almost all-day explore around with visits to a favorite perennial nursery and stops at several parks on my way home looking for FOY (first of year) birds and wildflowers.  If you follow me on Instagram (@hueymary), I apologize for the over-gramming of wildflower photos. 
Virginia Bluebells is one of our most beautiful wildflowers.  It is native and ephemeral (only apparent during the spring), blooming on forested flood plains.  The buds are lavender but the blossoms open blue and gradually "fade" to pink.  Typically, they bloom in May but they are quite early this year and since everything seems to be rushing along, it was important to take advantage of being near an acre-size patch along the Grand River.
Trout lilies are challenging to photograph since their flowers face down so I thought I'd try a "selfie" -- not so successful, but you can see what a beautiful day it was here.
They often tuck themselves up against the base of a tree which is the best photo op in my opinion!
 I found this yellow buckeye sapling starting to bloom -- perhaps two to three weeks earlier than typical.
The casual observer who enjoys pleasant weather will revel in it's beauty but a birder who is struggling to live with global warming is concerned about the hummingbirds returning in a couple weeks to find one of their early food sources out of bloom is alarmed.
Insects and plants respond to temperature as their signal to grow and produce. 
Birds are more keyed into length of day to migrate and breed.
So the insects can stay in cycle with flower bloom but migrating birds especially are struggling with early insect emergences which traditionally sustain them as they travel north.
And then I found this unusual toothwart -- leaves aren't typical -- so I took photos to take home and look up in one of my wildflower guides -- that didn't work.  Aunt Emma always scolded me about not "collecting" the right information to identify a plant -- it's not just about the flower, Mary!?!
Might have to go back there with the book in hand!
But I have spent my evenings in the studio and stayed on task with the Long Time Gone Sewalong.
I'm following Marti Michell's instructions and using her templates when they apply! 
I auditioned several layouts for this block before stitching the units together. 
This is my final block -- so much fun to be finally using the pile of (mostly) text prints I've collected over the past couple years.  It would be a shame to have all of them and not use them myself!! 
For the Trip Around the World block, I focused on some "veggie" prints -- another biggish pile that I love using!!  The turnips around the outside edge are a new addition.  There wasn't enough of the peas or zucchini for the last green band, so I used both and alternated them.
I have put all the blocks up on the design wall to inspire progress and future fabric pulls for this project. 
I've also finished the bird blocks for Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts' Jolly Christmas sampler.
I survived an attack of being temporarily (I hope) "diagram challenged" while making the cardinals.  I made a male (for my grandson) and a female (for my granddaughter) cardinal.
Here are the blocks so far -- there is another identical set.   
I'll probably sneak out again today once I've packed for my trip over to Westfield, NY tomorrow afternoon to speak to the local guild.  This puzzling picture is a reminder of where to find that red-head woodpecker nest hole and I MUST keep track of their progress!!
And migrating birds are arriving every night and must not be missed!!
And another wildflower will pop up . . . .
I hope you are loving the change of seasons in your part of the world -- it never ceases to engage my interest -- no matter how many times I've experienced it, there is always something I've not seen before. 
To the woods!!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Visit to the MQX Quilt Festival - New England

Last weekend a family wedding north of Boston coincided with the MQX Quilt Festival in Manchester, New Hampshire.  My oldest daughter and I made a mini vacation of it.  We took two days to drive over from Northeast Ohio allowing us time to visit the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in upstate New York for some birding and An Unlikely Story, the bookstore of children's author, Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) in Plainville, Massachusetts.
The birding was good (30 species and good looks at migrating ducks) and the bookstore is delightful! 
The Ohio cousins all met up in Boston on Friday and did the "pub crawl" method of the history trail.  That left me free to spend a long morning at the MQX Quilt Festival.  It was my first visit to the show and very enjoyable.
The main target for me was to see an exhibit of Victoria Findlay Wolfe's double wedding ring quilts!
I have the book but to see them in person is always the best!
It's so interesting to know the back story of each quilt.
Do you follow her on Instagram?  I enjoy the sunny little videos she posts every so often so what a delight to turn a corner and there she was, in the booth, on her lunch break from teaching.
So of course, I went into the booth for a closer look at some of her current work and to purchase the pattern for that big star in the background!
I even left my wallet in the booth, so she had to come find me!!
(Sought out by VFW!!)
The judged quilts were stunning!  All machine quilted of course and divided into 14 categories including "emerging entrants" -- I like that category option!
This is the Best of Show by Margaret Solomon Gunn.  She was also on the faculty for the weekend.
Every detail was perfect.
This piece by Molly Hamilton-McNally was just around the corner.  The applique on this one was the standout aspect! 
Until I saw the back -- if you look at the lower left section, you'll notice that she used a gold thread in the bobbin for the large feathered motif which made it stand out on the back. 
I really enjoyed that many of the quilts were hung so that the back could also be seen.
I don't do this sort of detailed quilting -- no patience, but it's stunning to see! 
These next three were my favorites in the show.  I loved the color palette and print style of this piece by Sheila Dameron who was inspired by the natural color palette of Sedona, Arizona -- right up my alley! 
This close-up of a rhododendron blossom was a stunning combination of applique and stitching. 
I forgot to take a photo of the tag so don't know the maker's name. 
I loved this little piece by Libby Williamson who was inspired by the "for sale" notices on community bulletin boards.  Her attention to detail (look at the left edge where the "paper" was torn out of a notebook).  Of course it's really fabric and whimsy! 
One of the elements of the show I appreciated was that all the pieces were hanging in "their category" so this is the view down the row of "edge-to-edge, hand guided".  This is the first, second, and third and it must have been a challenging category for the judging.
One of the details that caught my eye on the middle quilt by Linda Thielfoldt was the slightly wavy binding!!
There was lots of machine quilting inspiration and I was paying attention to simpler motifs that I might be able to modify (make simpler) in my own work.
Here's a little gallery of my favorites.
Using bubbles (but not too many) as filler
and to add some interest in spots.
I was struck by this blend of a motif and the use of the slightly wonky parallel lines. 
It's good to see this dense easy way to create dimension -- I always shy away from it fearing that I'll "ruin" what I've already done.
Just a cute motif here 
and here! 
And maybe saving this picture will remind me that an "empty" space can be dressed up a bit!
Another area where I'm always shy. 
I'm quite fascinated by simple and large circular quilting -- this works so well but it's so hard for me to visualize therefore I never just try it! 
Must just try it!! 
And finally, it was so much fun to stumble onto quilts that I recognized from my Instagram world!
Those spiders and the bats are from @lillyellasworld -- I was on the testing team for the spiders and you can buy it HERE!
And here's a New Hexagon piece based on Katja Marek's book and follow-along she did in 2015 via Facebook -- pieced and quilted by Arvilla Mederios -- love her name for the quilt -- Never Say Never! 
I'm a little disappointed that I didn't take a picture of the front of this quilt, Sanderson's Apprentice by Karen Terrens of Australia (this is the back) -- it's a reproduction of an English pre-marked Sanderson quilt from the late 1800's.  I've seen some of the original ones on the Facebook page of Antique Textiles in London, England -- lots of antique quilt eye candy there so expect to be distracted! 
Soon it was time to get down to the business of the trip -- the wedding! 
And a mini reunion with my two sisters -- me on the left, mother of the bride on the right,
and my crew -- younger daughter on the left, only son, older daughter on the right. 
Sunday morning saw all of us saying farewell until the next wedding. 
Good to be back home and back in the studio!
If you're celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend, hope it's a good one!!