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. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

in the works

Some recent quilting for customers--
A sweet little baby quilt to be displayed at Bear Patch, made by Debbie.

and a flannel quilt that any fisherman or woman would love to have, made by Nancy.
Yesterday I spent some time trying to get a good photograph of a quilt for a pattern.  I made this about 2 years ago, but it has been on the back burner for awhile.  It was a project that lasted a few months, because it required gathering together a lot of assorted batik fabrics that worked well together.  This is called a "hap quilt", an old term for a blanket or covering, often made of wool.  The strips are skinny (3/4" finished) in the courthouse steps block and I just took it slowly until it reached a reasonable size.
I am going to take a new picture, because I don't like the wintery grapevine branches on the pergola.  But I do like the colors in the sunshine!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

good things pop up

Something new and fun!

The Fat Quarter Pop-Up, a brand new pattern by Joanne, AKA The Fat Quarter Gypsy.
I met Joanne when she has been shopping for fabric at Bear Patch and followed her progress designing quilt patterns.  She's doing a good job, as you will see when you visit her website.  

Yesterday she was the guest designer at Bear Patch during our Twin Cities Shop Hop.  She brought this brand new pattern and it was the buzz all day long!  The pattern comes packaged with the heavy-duty coiled wire (custom shaped by her own professional wire guy), elastic and even the little label!

Here's my first pop-up, made within the last hour.  It stands up straight, but compresses down to be secured with the elastic so it's ready for travel.  This one stands about 6" high, and other sizes are in the works.  One thing she mentions in her pattern is using wonder clips when it comes to sewing the body to the bottom, but since I can only find 3 of my clips, I ended up pinning.  Hence the 2 blood spots toward the bottom of the bag!  I will be experimenting to see what removes those!

It's great to see something easy and fun, and to hear Joanne talk about it you just can't help but become enthused!  In 2 weeks she will be unveiling the pattern to shop owners from all over the world at the Quilt Market in Minneapolis.  I hope it is a great success for her!

Friday, May 1, 2015

NQR (non quilting related) and no pretty pictures!

I think you all have experienced it.  Looking at a blog, or website, or daily Facebook updates, which was where I just spent the last 20 minutes.  Not really expecting to find something fascinating, but a couple of clicks away there opens up a wonderful story.  I'm often very hesitant to click on those videos and pictures that pop up, supposedly placed on your screen by an inanimate processor that thinks it knows what you like.  Happens a lot on Facebook.

This morning I clicked on a story from Outside Magazine, which I know is a good and legit publication, so I didn't think it would be risky.  Turned out to be a lengthy article, but I am so glad it was placed in front of my face.  It is titled "The Toughest Woman on Two Wheels".  Juliana Buhring is an inspiring person, whether she be of either gender.  The fact that she is a woman resonates more with me.  Please click on the link to read her story.  She has also written books, as explained in the article, which I am going to track down for myself.

There is a video clip within that article which will give you a shortened version of what she does.  One thing that really jumped out at me when I watched it was her demeanor.  Kind of the opposite of what is usually depicted about people who have made great accomplishments in their lives.  Usually they are pretty upbeat, positive, outgoing sorts of people.  Not Juliana.  She is about the opposite of that, quiet and unassuming.  She talks about having been very depressed at some times in her life, but finding her way out of it partly due to her affinity for bicycling.  Whatever works.

The last few months, since my father died January 13, have been unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  Bits of grieving woven into everyday life, lots of distracted thinking about times past, and trying to "be there" for my mom.  For the most part, doing pretty well.  But at the same time, feeling like I am muddling along.  When I go to visit my mom, it is much different, to be in their house with my dad's presence and reminders of the life he lived.  And such a good life it was.

Just lately, I have sensed that I was feeling less muddled, and getting back to enjoying more things.  Maybe it's partly the end of winter and arrival of spring, that always helps!  We had a great winter vacation to a tropical paradise.  And starting on a home improvement project that I have wanted to do for a long time.  And visiting my little grandsons and their mom and dad in a beautiful spot, Charlotte, NC.

And then, this week a good friend died.  It's just not right.  Sheri and I were friends since birth, since she was born one day before me and we were in the same hospital nursery.  We lived only a few miles apart, close enough that I could ride my bike to her house.  Coming from a small town and a small school, we were always involved in the same classes, activities, parties, etc.  We sometimes shared a birthday party, since all the same kids were invited.  And many sleep-overs, and a secret club, and telling each other who we would marry, every detail of the wedding, what our house would be like, and the children we would have!

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February.  This was while her husband, Paul, was undergoing chemo for colon cancer with liver mets diagnosed in December.  Paul was also a member of the Class of '71, and another friend for many years.  He and Sheri were the quintessential high school sweethearts that lived happily ever after, until now.  From what has been shared on Caring Bridge, it seems that Paul has been doing well with surgery and chemo and showing improvements. They have a son and daughter, and I am so sad for them.  It is hard to understand what they are going through right now.

Earlier this week, I received a message with this quote:

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

This means a lot to me, to remember that there is no shortcut to "get over it".  Best to just experience what is happening, and it will progress to something else.  I admit, I am one who is prone to keep myself busy so I don't get mired down in problems.  Not so much right now.  There are good days, and there are bad days, and somehow it all balances out in the long run.  So even though I am so, so sad that people close to me are gone from this earth, I do continue on.  And hopefully the world and my life is better for it.