Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Planned and Unplanned Improv; AHIQ 27

The small group met and I finished my two improv pillows. Just as planned. They're small and portable, an excellent project when there's not a lot of room to spread out.

Thanks again to Chris English who posted many exciting pillows on Instagram. He inspired me to try my hand at this delightful technique. They look great in the living room and actually coordinate with the bow pillow I made a couple of years ago. {This one was my first sample. Mailed the second one after all the kinks were worked out. AND it looks so much better after I rinsed it again then ironed while it was damp.}

Improv pillows from vintage shirts and mattress ticking
Coordinating pillows for the living room

The backs have a hidden zipper closure so they can be washed easily. The directions came from Chris Dodsley.

Pillow backs with hidden zippers
Pillow backs with hidden zippers
  1. Cutting fabric for the improv pillows
  2. Sewing the front of the improv pillows
  3. Bow pillow with mattress ticking
Shh. I bought DH a new shirt for Christmas but also plan to return these former shirts to him. It sounds funny to me.

Traveling these days means loads of security checks. I spied a quilt shop when we went out for tacos in Dallas and was amused by their sign:

Dog treat sign at Bernina quilt shop, Plano TX
Dog treat warning sign, Bernina quilt shop, Plano TX

Search and seizure everywhere.

Unplanned Improv
As I was putting the leftover Marimekko binding away my body was suddenly co-opted. Invasion of the Body Snatchers! Cue scary music. Suddenly I found myself opening a box of old household fabric and pulling out:
  • One old sundress
  • Two vintage shirts from DH
  • One skirt
  • Three napkins
  • Two curtain cutoffs
Then I grabbed remnants from three blouses. {Tiny bits of these appear as petals in A Daisy a Day. Before I knew it everything was cut into narrow and wide coins along with some strings from the scrap bag.

Vintage and remnant fabrics cut into strings for a scrap quilt.
Coin strings cut from vintage and remnant fabrics

After looking at the pile I added a few smidge-bits from the stash. [You know. Not a string but much less than a fat quarter.] One fabric was purchased twenty-five years ago and last used in The Live Oak. Time to finish it off.

What have I done? Completely unplanned. I don't need to start another project right now! This quarter was supposed to be time to finish previous projects and Christmas gifts.

Those dang aliens.

Enjoy the day, Ann

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Start Your Engines

There are plenty of quilts at my house, all the Great Debaters have been gifted, but I have a never-ending need for baby and toddler quilts. Usually these are made from project leftovers and scraps because it keeps the fabric moving. I rarely tell the mothers because non-quilters don't understand the modern usage of 'scrap.' Frequently they think it's used fabric... or that you found it on the roadside rather than paying good money for it.

Here are the leftovers from Propellers and Planes. "Oh, look, Sally. Look, look." {Who remembers Dick and Jane?} Enough for a baby quilt.

I tried an asymmetrical layout but it just doesn't speak to me.

Propeller quilt block layout
UIKEYINPUTDOWNARROWPossible layout for Propeller quilt

Here's the way I like it best.

Propeller quilt block layout
Final layout for Propeller blocks

Now to find some sashing fabric.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you're enjoying some turkey and family time this weekend. We're celebrating with our usual "Waltz Across Texas" to visit lots of family. So fun to catch up and see what's new at their houses.

The US has the latest Thanksgiving day. I wish ours coincided with Canada's. Friendlier, more uniform and perhaps we wouldn't feels so rushed. Kaja and I have discussed Christmas preparations for a while. We both like desserts; mince and Christmas cakes are her favorites while sweet potato and quince pies are mine. However, cornbread dressing is my absolutely favorite item. We serve it at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Despite dressing being a national dish {if America can ever be said to have one} recipes vary wildly from one region to the next: white or yellow cornbread, white bread, wild rice. People can get into heated arguments which is best. Like O. Henry's story, A Cosmopolitan in a Cafe, we're very worldly until dressing is on the table. I prefer yellow cornbread with sausage, mushrooms, and apples - so much so that I don't even serve potatoes until leftovers roll around so there's more room for dressing.

Double Vision - Circular Anomaly
Here are the pinks I pulled for Circular Anomaly, the quilt I started in Louisa Smith's class last month. I folded fabrics into smaller squares to see what they look like...

Pink and red fabric hugs and kisses on Circular Anomaly quilts. Double Vision quilts
Foreground fabrics chosen for Circular Anomaly

and then cut many of them into kisses rather than hugs. Now that most are cut I moved the rest to the side so I can plan the intersection of these x's and o's.

Pink and red fabric hugs and kisses on Circular Anomaly quilts. Double Vision quilts.
Continuing foreground placement of Circular Anomaly

In the top left, one background blue has a large pink rose. Do you think it looks better with hugs or kisses?
Hugs or kisses for Circular Anomaly quilt block. Double Vision quilt.
Should the foreground of this block be hugs or kisses?

Wherever you are I hope you spend some time with family and friends - in person or by phone. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Beading the Christmas Stockings

Our family's stockings are gaudy, loud, and out-of-style but they are the ones we grew up with. Most children like shiny and colorful with jingles; we were no exception. My mother told us not to put them on our feet. Of course we did... and found they didn't fit. It took me years to realize the lining is a simple tube; it doesn't reach to the toe at all, only to the heel. Thank goodness or we'd have ruined them.

Many wonderful patterns for quilted stockings have been published over the years. Almost every family I know has a set of their own. Whatever they look like, it's a joy of the season to group them on the mantel annually. QS made two pair for her in-laws: one to keep at their house and the other pair if they visit hers. Subtle and tasteful.

String quilted Christmas stockings  with holly applique.
Christmas stockings for the in-laws

But they aren't "ours." So back to bright and bling-y. Or loud and brash. Whatever.

Decisions for the first stocking include the Bethlehem star, the New Horizon satellite flying by Pluto, a Christmas tree, a butterfly, a sailboat, and his Yorkie. This one should have been finished last year but it's only getting started now. Bad Santa!

Beads and sequins on velveteen Christmas stockings.
Starting the 2016 Christmas stocking

Each object takes me two or three days to bead. I'm not fast... and sometimes I'm not too good either. For example, the mainsail looks okay but I'll be replacing the jib.

Beads and sequins on red velveteen Christmas stockings.
Partially beaded Christmas stocking
On the other hand, the bunny is delightful and the tree's ornaments swing freely. I beaded the Yorkie's hair so some of the beads stand up, mimicking his rough coat. Pretty good.

Friends told me to use Nymo thread, made for beading. Check. If there was any doubt, you can tell I'm not a regular beader. That needle was straight just a while ago. Any advice about how I should be holding it would be appreciated.

Nymo thread with a bent beading needle
Nymo thread and a bent beading needle

Two more ornaments to go {plus the jib.} It will be complete once the name is beaded across the top, the parts are sewn together, and bells are added. Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. I'd better get busy.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What do the Fairmont and my Christmas Stocking Have in Common?

I toured the Fairmont with San Francisco Walking Tours and enjoyed learning the history of this hotel. Sitting atop Nob Hill, the Fairmont has wonderful views of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Barely finished, the Fairmont burned during the 1906 earthquake but reopened a year later to become a city hub.

Golden Gate and Bay bridges from Fairmont Hotel
Golden Gate and Bay Bridges from Fairmont

The United Nations formed here in 1945; its charter was drafted in the Garden Room. A few years later Dorothy Draper remodelled the hotel using flamboyant colors and luxury fabrics. Her Modern Baroque style was "the opposite of minimalism."

Fairmont Hotel lobby
Fairmont lobby 

The Carousel Bar once incorporated a working antique one. That is gone but delightful murals still decorate the walls.

Carousel Bar, Fairmont Hotel
Murals of circus performers decorate the Fairmont's Carousel Bar

Like Dior's New Look, these exotic fabrics and colors celebrated the end of the war and rationing! After the tour I realized my family's Christmas stockings came from this same era. Bright red velveteen with green apple taffeta lining. Beading, sequins, and bells. More is more indeed.

Velveteen Christmas stocking with beads, sequins, jingle bells.
My Christmas stocking

A family friend made the first one. Then my mother {had to} sew others as the rest of us appeared. They always look merry and bright strung along the mantle. For years I never saw these stockings anywhere else. A family from my home state moved to town. Surprise. Their stockings are twins to ours. I wonder if the original pattern was in a local newspaper or magazine.

When it was time to make stockings for my children I wanted to update them somehow. Halley's comet appeared soon after my eldest so that was beaded on her stocking below. {It looks more like a paramecium.} Then I added a rocket for the many shuttle flights. Thus began began the Heavenly Additions.

Velveteen Christmas stocking with beads, sequins, jingle bells,.and Space events.
Daughter and SIL's Christmas stockings

The Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune is commemorated on one; the Ulysses boost past Jupiter on another. Neither SIL nor DIL had a stocking. His (above) highlights Discovery's spacewalk by astronaut Dale Gardner to retrieve the Westar VI satellite. Hers depicts the Rosetta landing on Comet 67P. That's the purple mass on the righthand stocking below... in case you can't tell. Over the years, my abilities have dropped off and it looks as odd as Halley's comet.  Or perhaps I can only bead planets, not comets. {I also cheated a bit; this is the year they married, not the year she was born.}

Velveteen Christmas stockings with beads, sequins, bells and Space events.
Christmas stockings celebrating space mission highlights: Ulysses, Voyager2, and Rosetta

DIL's still has a blank spot where I plan to add her wedding bouquet. I'm just a bit chicken about ruining the ribbons. Their names (covered in the photos) are written with beads and sequins across the white felt cuff.

With the arrival of grandchildren I'm busy making more. One should have been finished a year ago. Oops. The new velveteen is cardinal red rather than the former deep blue/red but the lining is still bright green. Although I drafted a paper pattern long ago, now I just use one sample as a guide.

Cutting Christmas stockings from velveteen
Cutting new Christmas stockings from velveteen

They all need a Christmas tree and then it's time to let loose: snowmen, reindeer, stars, butterflies, bells. Here are the events I'm considering.
  • For 2015: Discovery of Kepler-452b (possible Earth 2) by Kepler or New Horizons flyby of Pluto
  • For 2017: Total Solar eclipse or Cassini-Huygens satellite entering Saturn's atmosphere
Two yards each of the velveteen and lining will make six stockings. More than enough. I cut all six; they can lay flat at the bottom of the stocking box. The velveteen won't crease and I'll know where to find them... perhaps. {I have become a champion squirrel-er-away.}

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Circular Anomaly on the Last Day of Class

One of the problems with taking a class {or attending a retreat} is which fabrics to take. And how much of each. I'm not sure which bothers me more: running out or "wasting" fabric by pre-cutting the wrong amount. In consequence I bring laundry baskets of fabric. But this time especially I'm determined to try something different.

Deciding a little waste beats a lot of fabric hauling, I precut both the reds and the blues into squares. It was only during the class I determined to fuse the foreground. {It's not my favorite method but makes the most sense in this case.}

As another change from my usual practice, I chose her Circular Anomaly design. {It's the fifth image on CT's page.} This should allow me to delve more deeply into her process and circumvent technical issues. Usually I try to branch into my own design during the class. According to Louisa's plan the background is squares or rectangles. {No waste there. ;-) } It is layered with what she calls hugs and kisses.

In both her book and her class Louisa shows several construction methods including piecing and applique with and without fusing. Intended use informs your sewing choice. I'm cutting the centers out of the fusible to minimize stiffness. Even the best fusibles make quilts quite rigid and this only needs to hold until it's sewn. {I did consider glue basting, something Louisa didn't mention. I forgot to ask her why.}

Progress by end of class.

Circular Anomaly quilt in progress
Top layer arrangement of my Circular Anomaly quilt
Why isn't the lower left covered with reds? Well... They simply didn't work. The blues run from white to navy but the reds only ran to medium pink. There wasn't enough contrast at that end. Louisa and I placed those pink circles on the dark blues and it just looked lost/washed out. By moving them to different areas, I realized where they looked best. That's fine but means I will be digging out more fabric when I get home. {Perhaps I should have brought it all.}

No. I wouldn't have gotten further with more fabric. I'd have spent all my time picking and choosing colors. Made that mistake last class with her. Time to move on to a "new mistake." Ha. This way I concentrated on color placement of what was here. And there's quite enough - over one hundred squares. Including the backs, that's more than enough choices to make during one day.

BTW, Louisa doesn't overlay her foregrounds as squares. It was my own idea to make the single color flow across the quilt. This idea is another coping mechanism from Strips 'n Curves where I used way too much fabric. It sounds great; after all, who doesn't love more fabric. But in reality, the colors didn't segue quickly enough. Templates ended up covering only a single value when they could have ranged much further.

I pulled some pink fabrics at home that evening. Some don't seem quite right but it's late and the color is way off in this photo. The blue tints into white. Should the reds range into a white background Should there be more medium pinks? Things to consider.

Here's the final shot of the evening. Watching the grid emerge in the top right is quite exciting.

Top layer choices for Circular Anomaly quilt
Top layer choices for Circular Anomaly quilt

The Double Vision book is quite thorough on its own. Louisa covers an amazing number of variations on the theme of optical illusions. She makes these complicated patterns doable. When instructions repeat, she refers the reader to another section. Some readers didn't like this but I found it more honest than pretending each quilt is entirely disconnected from the others.

Louisa also discusses fabric, color, construction, and thread in her book. You could learn her technique without a class but you'd miss her upbeat personality, her hands-on attention to each student and her contagious enthusiasm for quilting. If you have the opportunity, take her class, too.

Reading blogs about everyday life in various parts of the world is one of my secret treats. Bookreader blogs are also a delight although most don't last that long. I like to think they've gotten lost in their books.

More recently I've found a couple that share poetry. I'm so well-trained by book reading that I often read cover-to-cover in one sitting. Reading one poem a day in a blog post causes me to stop and think more. Threadcatcher posted Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye. What do you think? Can we only become kind after sorrow? Are older people kinder? Why do some people choose kindness while others choose hatred? How do we make the kind choice?

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

First Day of Double Vision Class

Today is Election Day in the US. I voted. Have you?
Democracy doesn't work without everyone's input.

"It is the duty of every citizen to vote on Election Day."

Lots of fun with Louisa and my classmates. One of the best things about classes is seeing the variety of fabrics and ideas each participant brings.

Boy, I'm glad I pre-cut my fabrics. Here's my final layout for a background. Of course it took several iterations: take photos, move squares, repeat. Digital cameras are so helpful in this process.

Blue fabric squares shading from white to navy make Double Vision quilt background.
Arranging background for a Double Vision quilt

Two rows sewed by lunchtime. After a short break we returned to our machines and the background sewing was completed by the end of the day. The colors in this shot are so much truer than the previous photo.

Blue fabric squares shading from white to navy form the background of a Double Vision quilt
Background for my Double Vision quilt sewn

Environmental Progress That Caught my Eye

For years I've known willows are good choices for wastewater remediation. Anyone on septic systems probably knows this, too. Here are some links to articles from countries around the world. {Unfortunately most links are not https but you can at least get a feel for the research depth.}

However, I didn't know about newer research involving poplars. These trees naturally remediate groundwater but often at the expense of their own health. John Freeman, a plant physiologist at NASA, conducted an experiment at a Superfund site in the Bay Area. He fortified half the poplars planted with bacteria from healthy poplars at a TCE-contaminated site in the Midwest. Results show the trees reduced TCE to undetectable levels, pulled out other contaminants, and actually resulted in healthier trees. A better way to clean up some toxic wastes. Good news indeed.

Found in sites worldwide and now linked to cancers and Parkinson's, TCE was used as an industrial solvent and degreaser. It mixes with groundwater and is easily volatilized. That means it gets into the air. If your house is well insulated, concentrations build. In that respect, it reminds me of radon. People who live on granite understand.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Prepping for Louisa Smith Workshop

The next US Election Day is November 7. Go vote.
At Ellis Island I saw a photo of citizenship classes with this instruction on the chalkboard:

"It is the duty of every citizen to vote on Election Day."

There is always talk of our rights but very little mention of responsibilities. I wish everyone would heed this message.

Double Vision Workshop
Louisa Smith spoke to my guild last month about her new book, Double Vision Quilts, and showed examples of her gorgeous work. She has such a wonderful sense of color and is always interested in curved piecing, especially Drunkard's Path variations.

Book cover of Double Vision Quilts by Louisa Smith
Double Vision Quilts by Louisa Smith

You can see the relationship between these quilts and her earlier series, Strips 'n Curves. We were the first group to hear her newest lecture, What If? That phrase inspired her to develop ideas into quilts and turn a series of quilts into a book.

Book cover of Strips 'n Curves by Louisa Smith
Strips 'n Curves by Louisa Smith
During Louisa's Strips 'n Curves class, I made a safari quilt for my sister but had lots of "made yardage" left. Her upcoming visit spurred me to finally finish the leftovers from her Strips 'n Curves class.

Now I'm ready to cut up more fabric for a new class. And somehow my stash never seems to decrease. I think it multiplies like Tribbles.  The two colors occupying the most space in my stash are sky blue and cherry red into pink. No idea how this will turn out but, "No fabric was purchased for the production of this quilt." With this King's X: friend Gayle gave me several bits from her stash. They aren't reducing my stash but at least I didn't purchase them. Perhaps they're helping reduce her stash. How altruistic of me. ;-)

Fabric pull of blues and reds for Circular Anomaly quilt
My fabric pull for Double Vision class

Last time I took all my fabric to cut during class. I won't make that mistake this time. I'm pre-cutting everything into squares. It's a lot less weight to lug around.

If It's October, It Must be Time for a Cold
As seems to happen every fall, I'm again fighting a lingering cold. The older I get, the more these drag me down. We have lots of supplies on hand, just need a minion to make and serve them. Ha.

My mother made tiny dishes of soup, jello, fruit, and sherbet when we children were sick. She brought them to our bedside on a lovely tray. Only three or four bites of each, then more medicine and back to sleep. What a tender memory.

Once when my sons were in grade school I woke from a fever to find they'd left a note for me under a small silver bell. It was so touching to think they were channeling their grandmother and me. Nope. The message read, "We took your TV. Ring the bell if you want it back."

Enjoy the day, Ann

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Kaleidoscope of Butterflies 22, Pillow Progress, and Natural History Museum

How's that for an all-inclusive title?

Although I've seen butterflies here, they've been too quick or shy for photos. My daughter had much better luck at her house where she found thirty or forty Painted Ladies enjoying the daisies. They look like monarchs or frittaries, don't they?

Orange and black Painted Lady butterflies feed on white and yellow shasta daisies
Painted Lady butterflies feeding on daisies

Lots of beauty everywhere. I started more butterfly blocks but trimmed them incorrectly. Fortunately only a few were lost. Unfortunately the parts I lost are the green background which, of course, is the critical path. When it runs out the size of the quilt is set.

Quilt block units as leaders or enders
Butterfly wing blocks
Until my trimming mistake I'd developed a good rhythm using these as leaders and enders. Obviously I need to pay much more attention before cutting anything. Words to live by.

Enough have been sewn that I'm beginning to have design ideas. The blocks will will take a while to finish. Perhaps they will be done by springtime when their real counterparts reappear.

Our bee continued working on the improv pillows. Because it's so small I straight pinned the layers. So much easier than safety pins! The batting is patched together and the backing is the ugliest plaid. Additionally it's a very rough, coarse weave. Yuck. Inside a pillow is the perfect place for it.

Improv pillow top of nine six-inch blocks made of three vintage men's shirts.
Pillow top pinned

The afternoon passed with wide-ranging discussions while I quilted narrow matchstick lines.

Quilting improv pillow top. Blocks made of three vintage men's shirts.
Quilting narrow channels on the improv pillow top

Here's the finished pillow top.

Improv pillow top of nine six-inch blocks made of three vintage men's shirts.
Improv pillow top of three vintage shirts finished with channel quilting in tan.

At the next meeting I'll work on the back.

I spent my final day in NYC at the Natural History Museum, location of the first Night at the Museum movie.  Teddy Roosevelt is still hanging around the front entrance - inside and out.

Two statues of Teddy Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History
Two statues of Teddy Roosevelt, American Museum of Natural History, NYC
I've been before and knew it could be a multi-day visit so this time I headed straight to the Mineralogy rooms. They are dark; photos don't do the exhibits justice.

There were several cases of gold including fabulous leaf golds. The large one, from the Harvard Mine in Tuolumne County CA, is called the Sonoran Sun and weighs 2539.2g (81.65 Troy oz.) As you'd expect these beautiful examples are worth more than their weight.

Leaf gold ore samples at American Museum of Natural History
Crystallized leaf gold in quartz, American Museum of Natural History, NYC

Gerhard Becker of Sierra County, CA, carved this Bison from gold in quartz matrix.

Bison. Carved by Gerhard Becker. Gold in quartz matrix. American Museum of Natural History
Bison, gold in quartz matrix by Gerhard Becker
Not nearly as showy are the evaporites. These minerals form in alkali lakes of the Great Basin region. Who remembers the old TV show Death Valley Days sponsored by 20-Mule Team Borax and partly hosted by Ronald Reagan? Borax is third from the left on the top row.

White and grey Evaporite samples at the American Museum of Natural History
Evaporite samples at the American Museum of Natural History

On my way out I saw this ventifact from Antarctica, a rock carved by wind...

Ventifact from Antarctica at the American Museum of Natural History
Ventifact, a wind-carved rock from Antarctica
and hung out with the barosaurus in the rotunda. Paleontologists are still arguing whether or not she could have reared on her hind legs like this {although it makes a dramatic display}; however, they all agree her young one is actually a kaatedocus. {Kaate- is a Crow Indian diminutive. So her name means "cute little diplodocus relative." Who says paleontologists don't have a sense of humor?}

Barosaurus with kaatedocus, American Natural History Museum, NYC
Barosaurus with kaatedocus, American Natural History Museum, NYC

We left NYC before the latest incident. My prayers go out to the New Yorkers hurt in lower Manhattan yesterday.

Enjoy the day, Ann

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