Monday, August 29, 2011

back on task

Since the first intent of this blog was to share some of my fiber fun, seems like I better get back to that after the vacation interruption. I had started on a Christmasquilt for Debbie before I left, but had only gotten as far as mounting it on the rollers. There it languished while I was away having fun. But first day back and I gotmy bobbins wound, machine cleaned and oiled, tension adjusted, good book to listen to and ready to roll.

We had decided that I would do my echoed loops and curls, a favorite all-over design, in a green thread. This quilt pattern is called Shadow Song and is designed by Terry Atkinson. It will be a class at Bear Patch this fall, a one night session for the Easy As Pie series. Our example uses a great group of Christmas fabrics, but as with any quilt pattern, you can choose your own favorite colors and designs. The picture above shows a partially quilted area and illustrates something that occurs during the process. See how the area of unquilted fabric in the upper left seems kind of loose and has some ripples? The quilted area doesn't look like that. I keep the tension of the quilt layers a tad loose so I am not stretching everything, and the rows of stitches take care of the rest. The more densely an area is quilted, the smaller it becomes in relation to the surrounding area. That is why it is important to keep the total quilted surface in a somewhat evenly quilted pattern, or you will end up with bubbles and puckers. Ask me how I know! This principle can also be put to work in a beneficial way for a quilt top that is pieced together unevenly, the biggest culprit being border sections that are too large. More stitching in those areas can do a good job on camouflaging bumpy borders, to a limit.

Flight time is perfect for me to work on a small knitting project, so I took along this scarf that I had started last spring.
I think this was yarn that I bought in a store in Sebastopol, CA, Balls and Skeins, last July. The pattern is one I have shown you before, the 22.5 degree scarf, available free on Ravelry if you sign up to be a member. I have lost the yarn label somewhere along the way, but I think it was from Araucania. It is a very nice yarn to work with. I never used to understand what that phrase really meant before I ventured into more knitting projects. Isn't all yarn just a bunch of string, anyway? Oh, no! Not by a long sight! After using a few different brands and types, I found some yarn that I would never use again because it felt rough or split between plies, or had knots, etc. Generally it is a problem encountered with yarn that I do not purchase at an actual yarn shop, not saying that everything at Michael's and JoAnn's is not useable, but it's just a case of buyer beware. Same principle applies to fabrics purchased at a quilt/fabric store as compared to a chain store. You can find some gems and/or disappointments no matter where you look, but you will have a much better chance of success at the store that is providing the individual service you are looking for, rather than departments for every craft under the sun. Just sayin'!

Can't resist one parting moment of vacation pictures--
Dan and Liz hard at work cleaning up the kitchen after our last dinner there.

And a beautiful wildflower from the shores of Convict Lake. Very interesting story about that lake if you want a little fun history and a tale that could be a John Wayne movie! What Wikipedia fails to tell is that the convicts were later captured nearby (Round Valley), taken to Bishop, and some were hanged. Not a happy ending--let that be a lesson! I like the image of the star flower much better!

Monday, August 22, 2011

what I did on my summer vacation 3

A few more notes for you about our vacation, today is our last day for fun and frolic. Yesterday we took a fun hike to Crystal Lake, this was a good trail because it was challengingly uphill all the way to the lake, not terribly long, good resting spots on the lakeshore and a breeze to get back downhill to the parking lot.
Here we are perched on the trailside while another hiker was kind enough to capture the moment for us. That is Lake George in the background, one of the lakes in the Lakes Basin just outside Mammoth Lakes.

This is the Crystal Crag, and our hike did not include scaling the rocks to get to the top! Dan tells me he has gone up there, I'm glad I wasn't around for that one! Somewhere up there is a patch of shiny crystal rocks, hence the name.

These petite little alpine flowers were growing near the creek at the lake's outlet, each blossom is only about 1/4".

Later in the day we took a short drive out to the area of hot springs just south a bit along 395. This whole area has a lot of volcanic history, and these areas of natural hot springs are a reminder of what's going on inside our earth. Bob and Dan were enjoying the soothing warmth, Buddy not so much! Buddy is Liz's little dog, who also lives at the house Dan lives in, and he came along with us. He was not a big fan of being in the water, but he had a good time scouting out the sagebrush all around and studying the cattle grazing in the area.

One of the highlights of this trip, for me, was our visit to Sierra Cottons and Wools in Bishop. I just can't believe that I didn't take even one picture! I was too busy admiring the creative inspiration inside their doors, and having a good visit with Barri. She is the designer of Bareroots patterns and owner of this lovely shop. Her patterns feature a lot of hand embroidery mixed in with some sewing and quilting. I visited her shop in the tiny town of June Lakes, CA, about 3 years ago. Since then she has re-located to the less tiny town of Bishop. This seems to be a good spot, since there were people coming and going all the time I was there. And this space is much larger, with room for more fabric, many of her beautiful samples, a classroom space and a whole room of yarn--I think I could move in! I was able to lay my hands on a brand new book that she has authored, Quilt a Gift for Little Ones.

It is published by David & Charles, and the photography and design of the pages is exceptional. They did a wonderful job of showing the details along with the corresponding directions, just as in Barri's previous book, Quilt a Gift. This is a new release, so shops should be getting them in stock soon. There are several appealing projects in this book, you can bet that I will be making some of them! If you are eager to get your own, contact Sierra Cottons and Wools or Bear Patch Quilting to place an order. I just have to decide what to start first! Of course, I was also tempted with a book of baby knits and beautiful yarn, so the choices are many!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

what I did on my summer vacation 2

The opportunities to enjoy being out in nature seem to be abundant here in the mountains, and we have been trying to make the most of it. We actually feel kind of guilty driving around when we see people running, biking and hiking everywhere we look. There are whole teams of runners who come here for training at an altitude, including Olympic team members. When you see these gas prices it kind of makes you want to walk or pedal even more!

Bob and I made the hike to Devil's Postpile Monument and Rainbow Falls. We rode a shuttle bus into the park, I love those buses loaded to the max and hardly any cars on the narrow, steep switchback roads.
Of course, I saw a quilt pattern in the rocks above the Postpile--

Naturally formed hexagons! Then we walked on to Rainbow Falls, which is still plenty full of water this August after the heavy snowfalls of the winter.

We took one morning for a drive up to Yosemite, it is less than an hour north of Mammoth Lakes. We went in the east side of the park via Lee Vining, which also required a stop at the Mobil station at that intersection and a visit to Whoa Nellie Deli. A place of local legend and excellent food. They have a great park-like picnic area for dining and outdoor music performances. Then onward and upward into the park--a beautiful drive when I'm not the one driving! Excuse the bugs on the windshield!

It's always a neat feeling for me to approach the peaks. We only drove as far as Tuolomne Meadows, and noticed that there were whole lot more people around than the last time we were there in the end of September 2 years ago. It actually was a challenge to find a parking spot. But we did get parked and out on the trails, quickly leaving behind the bulk of the people mass.

These pictures were taken along a section of the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails, and we saw many fully outfitted backcountry hikers in this area.

We did not do anything remotely like long distance backpacking, but I did always have a fascination with the idea of doing a trip like that. Then once Bob and I did a 3 day backpacking trip along the Superior Hiking Trail, and I learned that it is much harder than it looks! But walking the John Muir trail and sharing the path with the people who can do that was a treat, and now I can cross it off my bucket list!

Now I am being urged to get going so we can drive out the the hot springs, so I better get a move on!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

what I did on my summer vacation

Last Monday we hopped a plane to Reno and headed south on 395 destined for Mammoth Lakes. It's a pretty drive through mostly rural areas, once past Reno and Carson City.

You know you're not in Minnesota when this is the sign that you are scanning the countryside for! It's a distant memory, but the last time I dined on an In-n-Out burger it was delish! Watching Bob savor his Double Double while I snacked on some fries was almost enough to make this girl fall off the vegetarian wagon.

We found Dan as we were checking into our room at Mammoth Mountain Inn, very conveniently located at the foot of Mammoth Mt. and just across the way from Dan's office. It is gorgeous here, and so different from our previous visits in winter. We have done some fun activities and sightseeing, and relaxing a bit this afternoon.

Yesterday morning we rode the gondola to the tippy top of the mountain, not the best place in the world for a scaredy-cat of heights, but the view is heavenly! As long as I ride in the gondola seat that faces in to the mountain and keep some conversation going, it's not half bad! Posing for this picture was anxiety-producing for me, and it was so windy it felt like we could fly right off the top.

For a fun comparison, look at this picture taken 3 years ago, I think, and a picture taken yesterday by the same sign--

Dan took Bob and I for a bike ride on a very nice paved path from town towards Twin Lakes, but it was all uphill and a bit much for my flatlander lungs and legs, so we had to turn back before we got to the lakes. Later Bob and Dan took bikes on the gondola to the top and rode back down to Main Lodge, and Bob has only a few scrapes and bruises to show for it. Mere flesh wounds, nothing to take away from the fact that he accomplished something he had never done before. The mountain is criss-crossed with bike trails and humming with activity even without the snow--well, there is a bit of snow here and there, but not an obstacle to the daredevil bikers.

While they were cruising downhill, I was hiking uphill to Minaret Vista, about a 3 mile round trip. I was glad I forged on up the hills and crossing snowbank remnants, because the view was worth it and I needed to be able to justify my calorie intake last night at our fabulous dinner at The Lakefront Restaurant. We also managed to fit in a beer tasting at the Mammoth Brewery earlier in the day, so we had a very busy and full day. Stayed tuned for more...

Friday, August 12, 2011

one more step

You, my readers, seem to enjoy my pictures of nature in my yard, so here you go--

The flowers and leaves and fruit are like little gems.

I'm nearing the finish line with the Katy quilt, even though I already thought it was done. This bit of the quilting process didn't make itself clear to me until I had finished everything I had planned to do. I had outlined all the flowers and leaves, stitched on the binding and rod pocket, and finally acknowledged that little niggling voice in my head that had been telling me that the yellow border needed some attention. Since the quilt was no longer on the big frame, I decided that the best choice was to add some straight line stitching to help frame up the center design and keep that border flat.

So trusty Bernina came to the rescue! Five randomly positioned lines were just what the doctor ordered! If you are not a quilter and wonder about that odd looking foot on the machine, that is called a walking foot. It is absolutely necessary for this type of stitching through multiple layers, because it has a mechanism that "walks" along the top layer of fabric just as the feed dogs do underneath the fabric. That keeps the layers moving evenly--another name for the foot is the even feed foot-- and is also what I use when I want to match plaids or stripes. On the left side of the foot is a detachable adjustable guide bar that allows me to use the previously sewn line as a reference for guiding my new sewing line. It is kind of like the row marker on a corn planter, only in reverse, for all you farm girls. The planter row marker extends out to the side of the planter and marks a reference point in the dirt for the next row. Lessons from the farm pop up in the most unexpected places!

I have been outside digging in the dirt all morning, uprooting a heap of violets and yarrow that have multiplied beyond reason in my flower beds. They can be kind of tough to pull, especially to remove as much as possible of the root system. They had overwhelmed some of the other plants, so the thinning out has helped highlight some other nice plants.

This is one section along my front walk, now the walk is covered with everything that I pulled! This is my 3rd session so I finally feel like I am making progress and can see the end. All that bare dirt will need to be mulched and I can start planting and transplanting some other things. See those paver steps on the right? I put those in there probably 18 years ago, and they were completely overgrown so I had even forgotten they were there!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I was so happy today to open up the windows and shut off the A/C, as the air around here became much more breathable and pleasant. I was even inspired to pull weeds from some flower beds that have become too congested with yarrow that has spread all over and is choking out some other lovely plants. While out there, I saw some large yellow butterflies flitting about, and got a picture of this guy who must have been getting a sip from the bottom of the lily--

and close by was this tiny little guy, his wings were only about 1" from top to bottom. I don't have a proper telescopic lens so this was the best I could get. Always makes me appreciate the diversity of nature and the details that I often overlook.

Another detail I enjoy is finishing up a quilt like this one for a customer--
A lot of work went into this one. Many, many little triangles!

Friday, August 5, 2011

button, button

Don't you just love a good button!? I can hear Bob saying "No"! He just doesn't get some of the same things I do, and vice versa, so we're even. I think I told you that one of my birthday presents was some little packs of buttons, so here they are--

I think those 3 at the top look like caramels, don't you? These all look perfect for some bags or embellishments, I might have to design some special things just to use the buttons!

And then the button theme went one step further with the gift of this unique little button bracelet--

This is from Prize Possessions, a frequent vendor at quilt shows among other things. The card with this bracelet states that these are waistcoat jewel buttons circa 1870--how special is that?! This prompted a discussion of what really is a waistcoat, and a little wiki research explained that it is another word for a vest. I have been studying these little gems and imagining the stories behind them. Where did the wearer live? Who stitched them? What adventures did they see? And who's the guy that wore pink buttons on his waistcoat?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I've been kindleized

Last week we had a special occasion here. On Thursday night we had a dinner table surrounded by family--Brita, Ben, Jan, Serra and Aurora! It was so fun to have them all here from near and far, and I sort of forgot about the fact that the next day was my birthday. But they didn't let me forget, and brought cake and presents! Jan brought me buttons, very special ones from Britex, she knows me like only a sister can!
And Bob and the kids totally surprised me with a Kindle! Something that I had been lusting after, and it's not even a textile! So I lost some sleep time that night while figuring out how to make use of the various features. So far I am learning on just the free stuff, which includes a lot of classic books and many games. Did you ever play that dots and squares game? I remember doing it during church on the back of the bulletin, working out a grid of dots and then challenging whoever was sitting next to me to connect the dots and claim squares. Well, that is now in the electronic version on my Kindle! Who would have thunk it?

Today I am watching the rainstorm, the second day in a row of big storms. Everything is very well watered. And I am up and down to the basement between quilting and checking the weather. This is what I call the Katy Quilt, and this is why I love quilting! Can you say Marimekko?!

If you don't know what Marimekko is, you need to read about it here. When I think 'Marimekko', visions of the 70's come to my mind. I'm not sure why, but I have always been a big fan of the designs and colors from that company. I think it is partly related to my time in Sweden in 1971-72 and living in the midst of the Scandinavian design style. Plus Elna, my Swedish mom, was an interior decorator and had lots of beautiful fabric swatches that I loved to look through.
So when Katy of Mammoth Lakes inquired about making a quilted wallhanging from a panel of Marimekko fabric, I was immediately interested. Turned out she had in her possession a vintage piece (1975) of classic fabric by a Japanese designer. Katy is a graphic artist/designer who works with my son, Dan, and he brought the fabric to me on his trip home at Christmas. I found out what Katy had in mind for this project, and put a simple border around the panel. We both agreed that the printed selvage edge should be part of the picture, kind of like the artist's signature.

So today I have it on the quilt frame and will finish up the quilting. My goal is to have the binding finished in time to personally deliver it to her in 2 weeks when we go to Mammoth for a vacation. She said she likes yellow, so there is lots of that!