Friday, July 10, 2015

summer days

Hi!  I have some summertime pictures to share with you--
Last weekend I got to spend some time with my mom.  July 3rd was my dad's birthday, so it was good to be there for one of those "firsts" after his death last January.  We did some fun stuff and some work stuff.  There were some overgrown plants and weeds that we mostly worked on, so the yard is looking fine.

And we took a little excursion north into Minnesota to the little town of Round Lake.  It's maybe 10 miles (I'm guessing) and we found the Round Lake Vineyards and Winery.  I never knew this place existed before, but we think we would go back again.  We tasted some of their products, and enjoyed the beautifully landscaped area just off the lake shore.  And we brought a few souvenir bottles home, too!

We also went to see Barefoot in the Park at the Okoboji Summer Theater, and enjoyed a Sunday morning pancake breakfast Mini-Wakan State Park on Spirit Lake.

We needed to do some watering at my brother and sister-in-law's place while they were away, so we puttered around out there awhile, checking on the dog and cats, too.  The original old barn still stands, but is being overtaken by vegetation!

My mom's house looks westward over the lake, and this picture was taken in the evening before sunset.  It was much redder in person, due to the smoke from the large wildfires burning up in Alberta and a few in Manitoba.  Iowa is a long ways from either area, so this smoke really travels.

Back on the home front, check out these cute bicycle cookies!  

We went to a fundraiser for some friends who are doing the Red Ribbon Ride next week, and these cookies were part of the treats.  We wish them luck as they work to complete their fundraising and training.  If you have any inclination to make a donation, you can find Terry and Sue Robinson on the website and show your support.

And the upstairs renovation project is nearing completion, with some electrical work done to install some new lights and change some plug-ins.  These fixtures are from IKEA, and I like the sorta industrial look with all of the wood in the house.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time working on finishing woodwork.  I filled in nooks and crannies of the wood floor butting up to the logs with some wood filler, and that turned out well.  Then, I chipped out a lot of old nail hole filler that was originally done with a filler that was the wrong color, but has been ignored for years and years.  I decided this was as good a time as any to correct that problem, since we have sawdust and crap all over everything anyway!  So I chipped out the old stuff from 100 or more holes (seems like 1,000!) and sanded each to remove any traces of the old stuff.  Now I will dab on a little stain to cover the sanded area, and then polyurethane, and then refill the holes with a better color.

But aside from the woodwork stuff, I did put together this cute little pincushion.  It stands up on little legs, and looks like a tiny ottoman or Miss Muffet's Tuffet!  Read more about it on the Bear Blog.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

a new guy in the house

Meet Phrenic Fred.
I have lusted after him on the shelf at Home Goods for long enough to see the price go to clearance.  So Fred came home with me!

If you are lucky, you can go get your own phrenic head! 
So, why do I like Fred, you might ask. 
Maybe it's the fact that during a large part of my career as a nurse, I worked in areas that had a neurology focus.  The brain is still a mysterious place in the present day.  The "science" of phrenology dates back about 200 years to the time when you could have holes drilled in your skull to release the bad spirits.  If you survived that, without anesthesia or antibiotics, you probably did feel lucky to be alive and much happier!  You can learn about phrenology here.  Fred has a certain air about him, and I am happy to have him in the family.

A little project that I have put together for my next Paper Pizzazz class.  The "shape of the month" for June is the Chrysanthemum, which is like the dresden block with pointy blades instead of rounded.  Every month we experiment with a new shape, and I try to come up with a little project and directions for a way to use the English paper pieced blocks.  I'm not into making stuff just to make it.  It needs to be useful.

So I used a small spring hinge closure to make a little bag for who-knows-what.
It's like the snap closure on the top of some eyeglass cases or change purses.  I had some basic directions on how to use the hinged closure, and I adapted that to make a bag big enough to use the chrysanthemum sample.  I like it!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

wood tick wonderland

We have had a very healthy stand of hydrangea plants along our front walk for quite a few years.  They all started from one little bush.  And then they spread.  And in the late summer, they would be so large that they would block about half of the sidewalk, and we would trim them down.  And those bleeding hearts on the right would also lean over the sidewalk, leaving little space to walk.  This spring, I decided it was time to thin down the hydrangeas significantly.  We removed about half of them on the side near the sidewalk.  I think this should work out much better.

I have occasionally tried to dig up and start new hydrangeas in pots to give to friends, but they always died.  When Bob was digging up these bushes, he decided to stick some in the ground in another flower bed that needs some rejuvenation.  These seem to be actually taking root--

And here's a funny tree in our backyard--

This looks like the definition of gnarly!

And now I better check myself for wood ticks after being out in the bushes!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

a swan sighting

This spring we have had some new kids on the block--swans!  They have been spending some time on a marshy pond down the street.  Earlier, I saw them daily, and sometimes several at once.  Lately, they have been out of sight.  But yesterday, as I was leaving to go to lunch, this pair was back on the water.  And a little closer to the road, so I could get a halfway decent picture with just my phone camera.  I don't know if they have nested back on a secluded spot near this pond, or if they just dropped in for lunch.  Either way, they stop me in my tracks whenever I see them.  They seem very elusive and special.  I have never seen wild swans around here before now.  Near my mom's house in Iowa, there have been some swans in the lakes and ponds near there.  But I don't think they generally nest this far north.  But I'm no expert!  Just a fan!

This fine Memorial Day weekend I am working on lots of little projects at home.  I needed a new picture of my Scrap Hap quilt for the pattern cover.  An overcast day is supposed to be good for outdoor photos, so when I saw the clouds come over this morning, I figured I better get busy while there was little to no wind.  This is my studio----

I pruned off a bunch of dead grapevines from the top of the pergola and tacked the quilt up there after ironing out the fold marks.  That yellow step ladder is just what is needed for this, but I have a problem with it.  I have a real hard time folding it and unfolding it to carry.  It's really a stiff hinge mechanism, which is a good thing in a folding ladder.  But it was upstairs in our current DIY project, so I had to resort to carrying it down and then back up with the legs extended.  AWKWARD!  I bumped into a few things along the way, but no damage noted.

In order to get the best picture with my very basic set up, I have to use the 2 patio chairs and table to raise up the tripod high enough.  I have learned through trial and error and my son's tips that the camera lens has to be level with the center of the quilt both vertically and horizontally.  Otherwise the picture is distorted.  And a close up is of no advantage, in fact, it's better to move the camera back and then crop out the edges later.  This prevents another kind of distortion of the photo that makes the sides look bowed out.  Like this:

When I first started taking pictures of quilts for my patterns, I thought that I just needed to stand far enough away from the quilt to get all the edges in the frame.  Now I know better.  And even though my pictures are taken with a basic camera (used to be a Canon Elph and now my iPhone) I can still get pretty good results.  The photo editing program on my Mac is more than enough for my purposes, so I can brighten and crop and straighten and remove blemishes.  I went to a class about photographing quilts for publication, and really knew everything that the instructor talked about except for one thing:  a remote shutter release would be helpful.  Of course, an upgrade in a camera for a few hundred dollars would also be helpful, but not high on my list of priorities right now!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

a pillow for posterity

Here is a follow-up on the shirt saga!
We cut a lot of 5" squares to use in lap quilts or couch quilts for ourselves and kids.  Even strips for binding!  We used as much of the shirts as possible.  Some of them were pretty thin, they had seen lots of wear.  Others were newer or made of heavier oxford-type cloth.  So it's a real mixed bag.

We decided to also cut some smaller squares just to make some easy pillows.  These were 4 1/2" squares, making a cover for a 16" pillowform.

I knew that the thin fabric would not be very resilient against wear and tear.  Plus, for something like this, a pillowtop, it's much better to have a little bit of heft to the fabric so it's more like decorator fabric.  So after the squares were all sewn together (Jan helped with placement of the colors) and very well pressed, I pressed some lightweight fusible interfacing to the entire back.  I really wanted a good fuse so I used plenty of steam.  And I have learned to use a pressing cloth to keep from getting gunky glue residue on my iron.  After it was all cooled down, I layered it with a thin batting square and a muslin square.  Then I did simple straight-line quilting with my walking foot, 1/4" on each side of each seam.  After that, I just had to trim up the edges and sew to the pillow back....

very conveniently made from the shirt fronts!  So it had a natural button closing to get the pillowform in, and then close it up.  You can't see it well in this picture, but the pocket is still attached to the upper right corner of the pillow.  Someone told me it's like a giant tooth fairy pillow!

I really like having this little pillow on my couch, it can give me a hug when I need one!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Upcycling memories

I have been working with my mom and sister to preserve some memories of my dad. We have dismantled 23 of his shirts and begun cutting pieces for quilts and pillows. 
I'm not sure how these will all turn out, but I know there are enough pieces to make some good new memories for kids, grandkids and great grandkids.