Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring?

Not quite. She isn't rushing to make her entrance; either that or winter won't let her. It snowed yesterday, it snowed today. Mind you, these squalls are only distant relatives of our mid winter storms. The falling snow looks every bit as substantial but it doesn't last and the sun follows along swifty. But still, it's been feeling pretty wintery with temps in the 30s. Though I have to admit that's 40 degrees warmer than January! So we have progressed. Won't be long now.

It's feeling quite spring-y inside the house and I'm ever so excited to announce the blossoming of 2 of my Phalaenopsis Orchids (also known as "moth" orchids). As you may recall I had my orchids out on the stoop last summer and was beaming over the fact that 2 of them had put out a flower shoot and were budding. They were just getting ready to grace the place with their beauty when I brought them in to protect them from dropping temperatures. On their second night inside, a mouse helped himself! I awoke to find both flower stems looking like leftovers from the rodent's buffet! It was especially upsetting because one of the phals hadn't blossomed in 2 or 3 years.

Well, that's all past. The large orchid put out another shoot and is now in bloom and the medium orchid has done the same. The smallest one has just now begun putting out a shoot. Oh how thrilling! I've been coddling them this past week, making sure their drywells have fresh, clean water and that they don't get sunburn. Last week, I purchased another phal.--a deep red color, and Saturday I really dove into deep water and purchased a Cattleya Orchid (also know as "corsage" orchids). Yup, I'm ready to try again. I attempted a Cat. some years ago but was not successful in getting it to reblossom and now I think I know why: temperature differences between night and day. In the apartment in NY the inside temps were pretty steady round the clock and orchids need to get a temperature drop at night in order to set out flower shoots. So I think I'm going to have better luck up here.

Here are my 2 phals. getting a drink in the sink:


Here they are a few weeks ago, in situ in the south-east window:


Here is the medium sized one with all three of its buds open:


And HERE is the new Cattleya:


And my latest phal. Isn't that a pretty color!:


Finally, I removed the smallest phal. from it's pot and mounted it on a piece of cork. It has started to put out a shoot:


It may not quite be spring outside but it's definitely springing in here! And progress on the quilt continues; currently about half the squares are made:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bias ... and Bach ...

With so many scraps of fabric remaining I decided to forge ahead on another quilt. I found this pattern while looking at images from my web search on "scrap quilt". Try googling it some time, it's total eye candy!

These little squares are not complicated: 2 seams period! But they are a challenge because all the sewing is on the bias and that means: s-t-r-e-t-c-h-! I'm stacking the deck in my favor by using a sizing agent on the fabric before I sew, and I'm using the "IDT" (Intergrated Dual Feed) feature of my Pfaff sewing machine. It employs the presser foot to feed the fabric from above in addition to the usual feeding action of the feed dogs. It is like a built-in "walking foot". Still, every single one of my squares so far has required squaring up after the seams were sewn. No matter. It reminds me of what my ex boyfriend used to say (he was in the fashion industry): "It's only a dress!" so I say "It's only a quilt!" :)

I made the decision to use mostly solid colors in this quilt and I think the results are going to bear me out. 18 squares done, about 80 to go!

The squares are not sewn together yet, I'm going to wait until they are all made before arranging them, but this gives an idea:



Bach? Yes! It was his birthday yesterday. To help celebrate I recorded one of his 3-part inventions, one of my favorites, in Eb Major. It's on the left side-bar in case you care to have a look-see and listen. I figured out today what was causing the buzzing sound that is heard in the recording: the lamp!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Scrap the green ...

Having all the log cabin squares assembled with the first border attached, second thoughts came about using green as the second border. My plans were no longer sure. After several tests swapping fabric in and out "to see" what they would look like together and how they worked with the squares, I finally decided on what you see here. In my opinion it's a rather opulent border but I like it. The squares are strong in color and line so the purple--strong as well--neither fights nor shrinks from it's position.

Of course I added a bird, my signature! I'm told it's a hermit thrush, Vermont's state bird. Apparently it has a very lovely song. I'm please to have him in my quilt. :)

Dare I say this may be my favorite so far? It could well be, but I won't say it. I often have trouble stating my "favorites" because I like them all! I don't have a favorite composer--though if pressed under threat of pain I might say Brahms. Or Bach. Or Beethoven. You see? I do have a favorite color though: green. It's funny, because when I was a child yellow was my favorite.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Post concert ...

I can't believe it's now past. It's been a slow build up, a steady march towards performance, climax of the performance itself, and now the winding down which includes a bit of afterglow.

I'm most thankful that I got to experience orchestral playing--hopefully not for the last time! It's totally awesome and I can't imagine a more satisfying instrument with which to participate. When the full orchestra is playing its fortes and double fortes with gusto and excitement, the sensation of feeling the vibrations of my cello join the vibrations of all the other player's instruments is thrilling and exhilarating. Oh wow, it's fulfilling! And of course, such masterpieces of music.

I think the performance went reasonably well, pretty much in line with our last rehearsal. The prolonged and very slow second movement of the Beethoven was a big challenge, but it hung together--maybe by a thread here and there--but nothing catastrophic. For myself, I managed most of the Schubert as written but hopped down to the bass part in some of the quick-paced passages of the Beethoven. The bass part often being a bit easier. I'm pleased with my progress in this endeavor. It was a very positive experience and I'm looking forward to the next. Wish I could do it full-time. Oooh, wouldn't that be lovely? Just practice all the time! :)

There was a video made, I don't know if I'll have access to it but if I do, I'll share a few moments here.

Here we are towards the end of intermission, getting braced for the Beethoven. (As always, click to enlarge)



Friday, March 13, 2015

Second thoughts ...

... are going through my mind vis-a-vis the log cabin squares. In particular, I've changed my mind about bordering each square in the bright green fabric. It's not that I don't like the look--I do, but here's why it's not going to happen...

If I spread the squares out on a background of green there will need to be some design involved to make the overall quilt interesting and--especially: cohesive. Seeing, though, that I'm working with scraps I can't plan to have x or y number of squares with such-and-such color elements because I'm limited by the scraps. Randomly placed random squares on a singular background isn't going to pull together in my opinion.

So I'm ditching the background but I'll use that gorgeous bright green for at least one of the outside borders. Instead, I'll simply attach the squares to each other as they are. That will really look random and right and could be quite a blaze of color and line.

I laid out what I had the other night and it looks pretty exciting this way I think. As of this afternoon there are 41 squares made. Seven more to go. Won't be long now!

Concert is Sunday and I'm super duper excited. Rehearsal Wednesday evening was a blast. I think it's going to be pretty good. :)

Temps reached near 50 degrees this week and took quite a bit of snow away. I'm ready. As usual I love the seasons as they come and I'm usually ready when they decide to go. Spring will be lovely, won't it? Oh yes.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Piecing ...

The dining area is in quilting mode. The sewing machine rests at one end of the table and the cutting mat and ironing pad are nearby, to be put in place readily. I've been managing one square per day, early in the morning hours. It's a nice way to get things going. 30 squares are done, 18 to go. I picked out a fabric for tying them all together last weekend (from North Country Quilters -- check out their fabulous new website!). It's a limey-minty green, all bright and cheerful. All together I think it's going to be a happy quilt.

It occurred to me the other day that this will make 4 quilt tops that need quilting and if things continue like this it may be cheaper in the long run to buy a quilting machine vs. sending them out to be quilted! Perhaps that's wishful thinking. OK, that's good.



That's about the extent of things craft-wise these days except for an occasional sit-down with the pheasant needlepoint. It's "go slow" till I finish the quilt top. That's OK because when the weather gets warmer (oh yes, it will) I love to sit out on the stoop with my needlepoint early in the day, soaking in some vitamin D. I'm careful about it though; don't want to damage any cells in the process. I start with very short sit downs and extend a little at a time but never more than 15 minutes in the direct sun--morning sun. I've taken some flack over this, but I think it's important to get sunlight and I do notice the mood enhancement when I do. Done carefully I think it's OK.

Critters are doing their critter business 'round about lately. Yesterday I spotted a mink (that's the consensus) and the familiar squirrel who visits the bird feeder. The mink was seal-hopping across the snowy expanse of my front lawn and the squirrel was perched on the stub of a limb out back. I think the presence of a mink gives me the right to describe my place as "posh"! ;) Cutest darn things they are!



Practicing my fingers off getting ready for the upcoming concert on the 15th. We found out last night that the concert will begin with a 15 minute divertimento for 2 clarinets and bassoon, followed by the Schubert Symphony. Beethoven will be played after intermission. We enjoyed the company of trumpets and timpani for the first time last evening and it was thrilling.

In my practicing I've realized that if I can't play something fast I can't really play it, ditto if I can't play it slow. Mastery means exactly that! I do remember reading once that the difficulty with learning an instrument is that you need to learn it all at once but you can't learn it all at once, so it's an incremental struggle. But in my experience I've discovered the hard work is very, very much worth it. No question.

Oh! And I bought an exercise bike. I'll write about that later!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cabins ....

... of the log variety.

On a whim, I stopped at an estate sale on my way back from the bank Friday (have to pay the mortgage, after all). It was a house I'd always wondered about when passing. I wonder about a lot of houses, "I wonder what it looks like inside?", "I wonder what the floor plan is, It looks so big from the street?" Etc., etc. So I stopped. I'd seen an ad in the paper earlier stating that the entire contents of the house would be for sale. By the time I arrived the furniture was all spoken for. I picked up 2 books on weaving (!), and a large box of quilting scraps that I found in the attic. $20 for the scraps, $5 for the books! $20 may seem like a lot for scraps, but when considering the cost of new cotton (upwards of $10/yd.), a box of scraps does seem a bargain at twenty.

Wonder of wonders when I got home and quickly set to unpacking the box. Hidden within the tangle of accumulated discards were 2 completed quilt tops. The first one is large--very large, it will fit my queen size bed with ease and it is entirely hand stitched. Someone put a lot of time into piecing this bit of eye candy together. There are a few squares--near the edge, thankfully--that I will need to replace because they've deteriorated, but otherwise it's in good shape. As soon as I get the repairs made I'll have it quilted. It's quite an heirloom I think. The other top is smaller, just the right size to use as a cloth for the kitchen table. It's machine sewn.

I love making scrap quilts. I find them infinitely exciting to work on; they're an adventure based on only the sparest of plans and are full of wonderful surprises with every square. I decided to make log cabin (the title of this post) squares. They're a classic and hugely fun to make. No intense planning required, simply cutting 1.5" strips and getting them under the presser foot.

I managed to make 11 squares this weekend. (I should go off now and make it an even dozen!) Saturday and Sunday were hibernating days--snow and wind like crazy! It was pretty wild sounding last night. I love it. Most thankful the electric stayed on and heat was produced throughout the duration. It was not snowing today, still a bit windy but very sunny and bright. If it hadn't been for the cold temperature (just above 0) it would have been just like an early summer day, a kite day! I got most of the drive cleared of drifting mounds before running out of gas and finished the rest off by hand. My old shovel fell apart last week (however could it be!?) so I had to purchase a new one and it's an ergonomic design. What a difference that makes! I'm amazed at how the design takes so much stress off the lower back. How very wonderful--and relieving!!

Unpacking the box of scraps:

The large hand-stitched top:

The smaller top:

The living room floor looking like laundry:

The 11 squares I managed over the weekend: