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??