Friday, May 13, 2022

Tug Of War

You've all been there -- in a "tug of war" between what you want to do and what you need to do.  It's tough because you are the only person on both teams -- how will either "side" ever be able to declare a win??

Do you stay at the sewing machine even though it's a beautiful day so you don't fall behind?

 I haven't fallen behind (but I haven't finished anything either)!!  I've moved that lovely nosegay UFO forward by using the piecing of the little flower blocks and the diamond borders as my "leaders and enders" while piecing hexagons together for part 19 of Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden (pattern by Katja Marek).  This weekend when it's raining I need to double down and focus on the fiddly border attachment.

I pulled out another small UFO (maybe it could be a finish for May?)  Thank goodness I left placement notes on the blocks or I never would have figured out what my intention was several years ago when I started it.
It's a rather weird piece for me and I'll show it to you another time.

Yard-sitting arrived early this spring for Northeast Ohio so of course that requires a new easy to carry outside project -- another Musselburgh hat (designed by Ysolda) -- it's such a versatile pattern.  It's set up so you can knit with any yarn, any needle size, and get predictable results without doing a gauge swatch or math.  Doesn't get better than that!!  

 The yarn is a Merino/cashmere blend and I'm thinking it will be a cozy hat for a friend who is going through cancer treatment.

Or do you go outside and do all the stuff????

The weather along the south shore of Lake Erie has made for excellent bird migration over the past week and even though I've seen most of the birds that will come through, I must see them again.  One morning found me perched in my lawn chair under some big oak trees at a local park -- 2 hours later, I had listed over 40 species including 12 warbler and 4 vireo species without any exertion.  The day is fast coming when that will be my primary birding style!

I joined a local native plant group this spring and they are hosting weekly flower walks.
Isn't this wild columbine lovely?  Only comes in this color and will tolerate shade.  
I have one plant in my wildflower bed but there need to be more!

And this was a new to me violet this past week -- common dog-violet.  It is such a delicate shade of blue.  

There are little seedlings all over the house waiting to be big enough to set out
and the front porch is loaded with plants I overwintered getting use to fresh air and natural sunshine.
I transplanted some brassicas into the garden beds and washed some windows today.  My sewing side might lose the tug of war this month again.

I take comfort in knowing that I'm not alone -- we are all pulled in opposite directions because we are dynamic interesting folks who want to do it all.
So carry on!!


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

A Philosophical Moment

During the first spring of the pandemic, I found a sprouted peach pit in the compost.  I planted it in a pot and it grew!!  It survived the first winter of the pandemic and in the second spring, I moved it into a bigger pot  and set it into a sunny spot.  It grew to about 3 feet tall.  This year, as the winter began to shift into spring, I fussed about whether the sapling had survived -- the leaf buds looked so tight and brown.
Happily, the leaf buds began to open about a week ago and then yesterday to my great surprise and delight, a single sweet pink blossom opened.
This morning as I thought about that single little flower which seems a bit premature for the age of the tree, I was struck by an inspiration -- the peach tree, young as it is, is doing what it was destined to do.  
It's blooming!

It reminded me to start the day with what inspires me and off to the studio I went for a pleasant morning of catch-up piecing on my version of Katja Marek's Homage to Grandmothers Flower Garden.   I am working on "week 17" which is about a third of the way along. A couple weeks ago, I finally "organized" the background hexagons in a small tray to eliminate the messy pile I've been pulling from since the beginning.  It's made it easier to keep the randomness going as I piece and knowing when to cut more of a certain fabric.
I'm using 3/4" hexagons and estimate it will be about a 60" square piece in the end so it could be a wallhanging or laprobe when finished.  I'm enjoying the process very much!
It's sharing the design wall with a little upgrade of an old teaching sample.  The four "nosegay" blocks were made using Marti Michell's Stripper Set with her Kite Ruler tool -- it was one of my favorite workshops to teach and I have nosegay blocks in a variety of sizes.  Since it's only 30" square, I am adding the little flower blocks across the top and bottom to make it rectangular.  The next step will be to add sashing between the little blocks and around the entire piece.  There will need to be another border or two -- I'm thinking some arrangement of diamonds to repeat that shape.
Stay tuned!
I've conceded the month of April won't having any projects finished since George is sharing his table with the tuberous begonias who will soon move out onto the porches but I did eliminate a project from the piles by cancelling it so I'm down one more project -- maybe I'll eliminate another to make up for the lack of finishes this month???
Many of you garden and experience the spring/summer slow down with stitching especially in temperate areas with big seasonal weather swings.  I struggle with trying to do too many things at the same time so embracing the garden feels like neglecting the stitching.
But each of these activities nourishes and sustains one, so I need to remember that . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . growing plants and practicing my piecing skills are signs of hope for me.  I plant a seed hoping for yummy tomatoes and fresh beans and bouquets of zinnias.  I plant little tree and shrub seedlings hoping for shade and fragrance and fruit to attract nature to my garden.  I practice my piecing and quilting skills hoping to continue making lovely quilts.

The peach blossom reminds me!


Monday, April 18, 2022

Wild Flowers -- A Better Garden

 Today's post is not about my current quilting activity (although I've been piecing every day), it's about native spring wild flowers here in Ohio.  The spring before Covid, I visited the southwest corner of Ohio to participate in a Wild Flower Pilgrimage and have wanted to return each spring since.  Finally this spring, in the company of a friend, I was able to do that. 

I think that first trip was a turning point for me and my home garden because now I just want to fill it with native wild flowers.  Their beauty has won me over and the more I learn about their importance to building a healthy natural habitat that attracts insects and birds, the more fascinated I have become.  I've spent many pleasant hours during Covid viewing webinars about the importance of native habitats and am convinced this is the right direction to go with my home garden.  

So let me show you some of the beauty I enjoyed over the past few days!  It's hard for me to resist a path that begins like this -- greeted by wild blue phlox and lured ahead by Virginia bluebells . . . . 

 . . . . . . . into a landscape created by time and natural events to see breathtaking sights -- some are grand and spectacular while others are subtle and quiet.
This is at Ohio River Bluffs Preserve managed by the Arc of Appalachia, a growing "land trust" in southwestern Ohio that is working to preserve and restore precious remnants of natural habitats.  The preserve is located west of the small town of Manchester, Ohio and overlooks the Ohio River.  It is a remnant of what is believed to have been a twenty-four mile stretch of spectacular spring wildflowers on the steep hillsides and bluffs along the north side of the river.

This is currently the star of the show -- dwarf larkspur!
At the midpoint of the trail we were walking, these striking flowers dominated the hillside as far as we could see in any direction.  This picture looks "lame" but it's the best I can do to convey this marvelous sight.
We even spotted a few light morphs of the species.
It was an new species of wildflower for me and another new one was Blue-eyed Mary (named after me?).  Apparently, this little charmer is an annual and prolific in some places but I've never seen it.
One of the aspects of the areas we visited was how the plants "create" charming little landscapes with no help from a human like this little "white garden".  I know gardeners who work so hard to accomplish this and here is a square foot of diverse plants all "coordinated" in white and green.
We also visited Miller State Nature Preserve about an hour north of the river near the small town of Bainbridge, Ohio in Ross County.  It was a different palette of flowers partly because spring moves north and so some flowers that were finished along the river were at their peak in this river gorge but the soil also influences the plants that thrive there.  Every cranny of the rock face was filled with moss,  tiny ferns, white trillium, Dutchman's breeches, and miterwort -- I defy any landscape architect to create such a dynamic scene.
We found these bellwort almost in full bloom -- the flowers always droop from the end of the stalk and I seldom see them in my area.  I hope I can find a local-to-me native plant grower with them in stock!
In the northeast corner of the state, we rarely see this "toad-shade" trillium.  Those dark red petals never spread wide open and would offer a nice contrast to the large flowered white trilliums that already grow in my garden if my soil conditions permit.
We were also delighted with the cheery blooms on the wood poppies scattered amidst the many shades of  lavender and purple flowers.  I have a small clump in my garden already but now I want more!  And Whipple State Nature Preserve east of Manchester, Ohio is awash in them right now.
One of the plants I added to my garden last year was wild blue phlox -- it was blooming down south but it will be another 10 to 14 days before mine open -- I hope they look this sweet!
Here in Ohio, the state Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife has a series of sixteen nature guides available and one of them is Spring Wildflowers of Ohio.  You can download it as a PDF online HERE, but my local park system has the print versions of them available and I picked one up recently.  Out of the 65 species included in the booklet, we saw 27 in bloom and another dozen or so not yet blooming.  
Happily, I was able to manage my back issues better than I imagined and enjoy myself -- I wasn't sure I could accomplish that.  I came home determined to "wild" up my home landscape some more because it's more beautiful and vibrant than anything I can "create" with carefully tended non-native perennials.  I also believe it will require less maintenance on my part.  The fall leaves can stay, the native shrubs and wildflowers can mingle together, the insects can pollinate the plants, and the birds can harvest the seeds.  The whole effect will be inspiring and calming for me. 

If you aren't in the habit of searching out your local spring wildflowers, I encourage you to give it a try.  You can start with your local park system to see if they have guides or better yet, guided hikes and begin to learn what would work in your garden/yard.  "Google" for wildflower guides for your state.
See if there is a regional native wildflower society -- we have one in Northeast Ohio which conducts a series of six spring wildflower walks beginning this week.  

Wild Ones is a national organization  with local groups that is very active in educating and promoting wilder landscapes and a source of lots of information.  You may have a local "watershed" group or "soil and water" office that can point you to educational opportunities like invasive species removal projects.  I've become a chronic garlic mustard puller over the past few years and come out of every park all spring with as much of it as I can carry as a result of getting educated about the damage it does in native habitats.  I can't get it all but I can make a dent!!

Here is a YouTube link to my local Western Reserve Land Conservancy's videos and there is a series of five titled "Inviting Biodiversity Into Our Gardens" that explains this movement to "wildness at home".  It has been an inspiration this winter along with the series from the Ohio State University Bee Lab programming -- you can find that series and lots of links to useful information HERE.  I was so delighted to see dozens of queen bumble bees foraging this past week looking for nesting sites to start this year's colonies.  I haven't seen any up "north" yet, but am hoping to enjoy that sight in my own garden very soon.

The more I engage with the wild spaces around me, the more I appreciate their beauty and the importance of reestablishing a landscape dominated by native species.  Inspiring my neighbors will likely be the biggest challenge but it's worth spreading the word where ever possible.

I hope you will join me this spring and enjoy the awakening of your local wild spaces and be inspired to invite it into your own home space.


Thursday, March 31, 2022

Wrapping up March!

March can be a tough month here in Northeast Ohio -- the ice is gone from Lake Erie but it's still a rough place to earn a living -- this red-breasted merganser doesn't seem to mind the cold water and the wind but the rest of us are all staying in the sheltered spots -- outdoors and indoors.
But the bluebell foliage is popping up
and Harbinger of Spring is in full bloom so soon our focus will shift to all those things we can't do in the winter!!  Thank goodness!!
Thanks for the encouragement shared after my last (fretful) post about my back.  I'm just home from my monthly maintenance appointment with my physical therapist and she answered a bunch of questions for me and calmed me down a great deal.  We decided on a couple new things I can try and she assured me that I'm doing well under the circumstances -- we've worked together for four years and the strategy has helped during that time.  So I'm feeling much more confident.

So "fretting" is a hassle but seems to be a necessary part of my problem solving style.  I don't just sit and fret though -- I stitch and fret or I walk and fret so maybe that makes me a productive fretter?
Both of those activities are "default" modes that calm me down and I hope everyone knows what their best default activities are!!

In spite of the fretting, I scored some quilt finishes and got back on track with a knitting project.  These socks have been buried in the basket next to my cozy chair for over 2 months -- I "frogged" one and a half socks and just started again -- the hardest part of a failing knit project is working up the courage to "frog" -- once that is done, it's easy to get back on track.  Boy, is it hard to unknit all that work!!
I finished up two small quilts out of my WIP piles from the past.
This sweetie is Vanity Flair by Karen Ackva at and I used a "layer cake" for the design.  There are even leftovers squares from the layer cake!
I got hung up on the quilting but eventually broke through the wall and bound it last week!
This scrappy pinwheel was a teaching sample using an assortment of batiks from my Marti Michell tool teaching days.  I even have a recipient in mind which spurred me on so this quilt won't be languishing on the guest bed!!
And look at the backing fabric -- love it!!  So glad I impulsively bought the end of the bolt when I saw it -- enough for the quilt back and a half yard for my stash!!
Another teaching sample using Michell templates -- I love piecing this block and it was a popular workshop so I have several blocks to finish.  
This is a table mat and will be the perfect gift one of these days!
The local quilt show at Lake Farmpark in Kirtland, Ohio opens for a month this evening.  I entered my birth year temperature quilt and am headed out there for the opening this evening.  Always fun to see the quilts and the people, many of whom have been students and customers in the past.

My scrappy Forever Friends quilt blocks have all the sashing attached and another hour of stitching will have the blocks set together -- really love this top!!  I'm up to date with this hexie project and still plodding along with the hand-pieced one.  
I even spent 30 minutes yesterday working out a finishing plan for another WIP and tomorrow, April 1, I get to eliminate another project from the UFO/WIP list I made in January -- yipee!!  If I stick with it as well this year as I did last year, I should have such a tiny list to start 2023!?!

Now back to watching the seasons change!


Monday, March 14, 2022

The Ups and The Downs

I don't like change!  How about you?

It took me a while (as I'm sure it did you) to settle into a Covid way of life and find a level of contentment in what I could safely function.  Now it seems I have to reverse engines and go back the other way.  The question is how far back do I want to go? 

As things would have it, an official diagnosis of arthritis in my back last week will be a factor in my return to "normal" (whatever that is?).  It's been suspected for several years and I've actually been taking steps to manage it with monthly maintenance sessions with a physical therapist, monthly massages, and a morning stretching routine since it was first a possible reason for my back issues.  But something about having the doctor say where it's located and that it's "severe" threw me for a bit of a loop and I spent lots of time last week fretting about what this means long term -- the DOWNS.

  I have to fret -- that's how I deal with change -- but today I'm done with the fretting and ready to make changes that will enable me to feel energetic and as pain-free as possible.

Thank goodness for my sewing!!  It has been my default for a long time when fretting -- the familiar actions of piecing calm me down and allow the rational, practical part of my character to activate.  While I haven't had any finishes for almost a month, I've made lots of progress on a variety of projects since doing anything more than 30 minutes at a time leads to backaches so lots of changing up around here!?!

My version of @jemimas_creative_quilting EPP project has finally reached part 7.  The auditioning for each part goes slowly and I waffle about fabric choices though being a couple steps behind the release of the mystery parts is a bit of an advantage because I know where the design is going.  Actually, as I write this and look at the picture, I think the picture will help me make a couple of decisions.  I work on it during the evenings (watching murderous English TV series) and during webinars about native plants and pollinator insects (which are abundant right now).

I finished the blocks for Forever Friends (in the  book, Sisterhood of Scraps) -- settled on 24 blocks and started adding the sashing and setting the blocks together. 

 It should be about 40" by 60" -- nice laprobe!
I think I found a pressing misprint in the instructions for the strip sets in steps 6 (page 39) and 8 (page 41).  I noticed I was having to re-press every corner unit as I set the blocks together.  I tried pressing the strip sets opposite to the instructions and didn't have to do that anymore.  So if you try out this pattern, keep that in mind and see if you have the same experience.
Yesterday, I tidied up all the strips and had an inspiration -- drat?!?
Warm versus cool log cabin or pineapple blocks!?!  Sorted and ready to go!!!
But I'm not allowing myself to start that until I get this top quilted (and there are a few ahead of it in that queue) -- I need to cut more warm strips anyway.
For the moment, I'm caught up with Katja Marek's current sewalong, too!  Weeks 1 through 10 are pieced!  
This is a close up of the "wreath" so far.   I'm using stash fabrics and my only fear is that I'll use up all my light blues . . . . but then I'll have to shop!!!
I'm a little behind on the pressing but doesn't it look great when it's done?
Week 11's flower is pink and I'll use it as "leaders and enders" as I assemble the Friends Forever top.
I managed to get back into my early morning machine quilting habit over the weekend -- finished one small piece and started working on this small quilt.  Seems to be the best strategy for me -- quilt 30 minutes first thing!
How's this for a cheerful bouquet?  There are a half dozen amaryllis bulbs in this big bowl -- I have more red than I remembered but a couple have yet to open so hoping the white one and the red and white striped one are among them.
We are expecting a week of mild weather here in Northeast Ohio -- that will be good!!
It  makes it so much easier to convince myself to go outside!  I'm looking forward to spring "firsts" as always -- the first red-winged blackbird is here, the turkey vultures are back, the garden witch hazel bushes are blooming and skunk cabbage has been sighted.  Singing frogs should be soon and I'm checking everyday for the rhubarb plant to poke through.  That also means it is time to cover the strawberry bed so the deer don't browse the plants and shift the pots full of spring bulbs to the patio entrance.

Looking forward to a week of being UP!