Sunday, May 17, 2015

A varied spring ...

It seemed as if it would never fully arrive... but how quickly winter fades. This is good. It means that come November I'll be ready again.

The usual water logged areas as the snow melted. There was a lot of water about the place, but it's drying up fast. We've had very little rain over the past month and that's a little worrisome. There was a forest fire in Rumney today, saw it on my way to grocery shopping. It didn't seem as bad on the way back so hopefully it was being brought under control. But it's dry.

The lady slippers have not appeared yet and I wonder if it's due to lack of moisture? The picture I took of them last year is dated May 24 and that picture shows them in bud, so maybe--just perhaps--they simply aren't up yet. I'd really love to see them again.

After the snow melted, of course, the ground was very damp--that was a lot of snow! I spent a week+ pulling wild blackberries out by the roots taking advantage of the loose wet soil. I figure it's the only way to get a good start on controlling them. That particular corner of the yard looks 100% better cleared. I can see well into the lower forest now and have plans to plant shade loving shrubs and plants in the area.

Here are a few progress pics during that week. Oh, it was hard work! All scratched up I was.

The dead spruce, which trunk can be seen on the right in picture 2 is going to be cut down at about 10' high. Then I'll anchor a beam across the top and hang swings! Won't that be a blast!? This is the new view looking down into the forest; soooo much better!

It was a delightful surprise to find lilies growing under the blambles. Hopefully, this year (maybe next) we'll see some flowers instead of invasive vines.

I made a new bed for annuals and plopped the fountain planter that I purchased last year in it's center. I think it looks pretty nice this way.

The rhubarb got transplanted from it's original spot--which last year was under a fallen tree and so didn't grow well--to my garden. It really seemed I was killing it when dividing it, but nope, it's taking off very well. Tough stuff; must be.

My three perennial herbs came back (lemon balm, an oregano, and a thyme). I purchased a new rosemary and some gaillardia to fill the 3 empty spots. Some basil is planted in the big bed, but already some very impolite critter or creature is have midnight nibbles of them. Grrr. As a matter of fact, I'm going out there as soon as I finish typing this up to see if there's anything to see!

In other gardening news, the shrubs and bushes are coming out of dormancy and most look like they survived the winter. I've been picking ticks off left and right after my work out of doors--creepy darned things! The birds are singing ever so beautifully, the bear(s) has been around though I haven't seen him yet, and the owl is hooting it's midnight serenades. I love that. :)

[Funny coincidence: I'm hearing the owl just now. He's going on about something! :) ]

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Top done ...

The "Reminisce" top is done! It was a big challenge, the seam ripper got a good work out--glad I invested in a nice one of turned-wood last year; a tool that gets that much use should be good quality, nice and pleasing to the eye as well.

My idea to introduce color was a gamble but I think it succeeded pretty well. There may be 1 or 2 changes I would make if starting over, but to my eyes it still has coherence, and a traditional look with an updated palette. I do think it's somewhat striking.

In the third round--that of the "flying geese" motif--I introduced my colors as light pastels. There's a light blue, pale lavender, light tan, and light green. In each successive round I added an increase in the saturation of color, adding a medium version of each of the four light colors for the 4th round. It is made up of 4 colors, now 8 tones. The largest round--the sampler blocks--contains the most saturated colors of all, mixed in with colors from the previous rounds which I continued to carry outward. There is now a light, medium, and bright version of the four basic colors. Plus there are a few accent colors added in a few places. My signature--a bird--appears in the sampler round.

The greys and florals which began the central panel are also brought to the outer rounds. My biggest fear was that the central panel would look too unrelated to the outer rounds, but I don't think it's the case. I think the "flying geese" round ties them together.

I'll add a simple, solid black binding to the outer edge and that will be that! I'm happy.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Testing, 1... 2... 3...

Got my ideas all together for the needlepoint coverlet/lap blanket. Ran through a couple tests this week and the plan seems to be in place. 6" crazy quilt squares, sewn together to make connections between the 6 needlepoint pieces. It's a lovely change of pace from the focused attention required for the pieced quilt under way.

Neckties. They are a great source of color and pattern for a crazy quilt. At .50 apiece at the thrift shop, what's not to like!? I picked up four of them last week and they'll contribute color and pattern to the craziness. Other fabrics came from the store--as previously reported, and yet other fabric, from my stash. My stash--as is the case with yarn--consists of left over scraps and fabrics that I purchased for the sole reason that they were--to my eyes--beautiful.

I have yet to settle on a thread color. Tested 4 different colors so far and none are quite what I want, but a couple are close. This is important because the crazy connections will be done in fancy stitches, of which my Pfaff is capable of executing. In an ideal world I'd have oodles and oodles of time in which to execute the stitches by hand--and truth is, that is my ideal--but alas, not until I retire I'm afraid. It may, in the end, come down to white for the thread!

I worked up 2 sample squares and sewed them together. A nice result. I think it's going to be a pretty cool (warm, actually!) and heavy coverlet when done. Something I'll treasure for it's ability to keep the cold at bay.

The shiny red that is so prominent in the picture will, in the final quilt, be a 1/2" border around each of the 6 neeclepoints.

Round 5 ...

... going on 6! And I gotta say that at times it has indeed felt like a fighting match! Well, fighting match -- lite. :)

Seriously, this is the biggest challenge I've yet taken on the quilting front. Some seams have been worked 3 times!! On the round I just finished, the corners were especially daunting. Not a single one of them allowed for a clean line-up of the supposed-to-match seams. I had to nip and tuck here and there, and let out other regions to get a semblance of alignment. Oh yes, it's been a challenge. So far I'll give myself a grade B.

But round 5 is done, it's imperfections I'll live with. On to the last and final round: 6. This round is comprised of larger and more intricate blocks, and the practice I've accumulated over the course of the previous 5 rounds is proving handy.

Color. Another huge challenge. I had but the vaguest ideas when setting out on this adventure and it seems that the gist of them were reasonably sound. Again, probably a B. As may now be apparent, I'm allowing my color to become more saturated with each round, and this last round will be the most vibrant and explosive of them all. The last hurdle is to see if the floral can be (or should it be? Good question!) extended out this far? I think it can; I'm not quite sure how yet. (Better figure it out soon!) There is with this quilt--I'll admit it--an underlying sense of, "I have no idea what I'm doing!" Ha!

Here's my first block for the outside round. As you can see, I'm re-introducing the lightest of the grays and I'm really punctuating the color:

Well, it's all fun isn't it! :)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Seam ripper ...

Mine's getting a work out! Oh my word, several seams sewn, ripped out, and re-sewn. This top really is a challenge. There is nothing more satisfying than measuring up a newly made piece and finding that the seams match with it's partner; and something less than satisfying to discover discrepancies of more than 1/8"--a scant 1/8" being my self-imposed allowance--and even at that they seem like gaping big holes. Then there's the realization that the new strip is way too long and puzzlement as to how that could have happened. I spent 15 minutes checking and tightening up seams on one particular strip when it finally dawned on me that I added too many squares to it!! That was actually a relief discovery.

If it sounds like a constant battle void of fun, that's not what I mean. I'm enjoying it to the hilt and I'm really learning a lot with this one. As of 10 minutes ago, here's where it stands. There are 2 more rows done since I last posted a picture. There are 2 rows to follow and they are biggies: Lot's of different types of squares to piece.

Color has also been a big challenge. The pattern is so intricate it's hard to imagine what it will look like when certain pieces are of a certain color. I've more or less been holding my breath that it will remain somewhat coherent; so far: OK I think. The next 2 rounds will stick with the current colors but they will be more saturated. Hoping to thread enough of the red and yellow floral throughout to keep it hanging together.

I went to a quilt show this afternoon: The Northern Lights Quilting Guild's show. It was wonderful, inspiring, and motivating. Some really, really beautiful quilts shown.

I couldn't resist this piece of fabric, and 2 books at bargain prices.

And since I was in the vicinity of a store which carries upholstery fabrics in addition to other fancy goods, I stopped and picked up material to use for piecing scrap borders for the needlepoint coverlet I have in mind.

A beautiful, warm day. Not like winter at all... wait... did we have winter? :) Funny how fast the memory fades, I guess it feels better to have it out of mind at the moment!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can't have too many scraps ...

The great thing about buying scraps at thrift stores, etc. is that it's a fast way to get lots of color all at once. Building a wide-ranging palette from new purchases would be expensive and time consuming.

A new heap of material came my way recently. It is a bin from the thrift store. Not only do the contents contain several rainbow colored cottons, but also a number of quilt project kits, and some very beautiful marbleized fabric. A nice find.

This unfinished top was also in the bin. I'm sending it down to an acquaintance in Austin, seeing how I'm not really a cat person--although I do like cats. But with the birds and all, well, you know. Isn't it sweet:

Today, on a whim, I stopped at a local repurpose store and found a set of 6 needlepoint chair tops, on the cheap. Didn't take long to snatch those up! I've had an idea in mind for some time now to make a coverlet out of old needlepoints. To that end I've been collecting them as I find them for a few bucks here and there. Up till today I only had 3. Those 3 will continue to wait until I find more. The 6 news ones are terrific because they match! My plan is to make connecting patchwork using velvets, brocades, lace, etc. and turn these into a heavy lap blanket--or coverlet if it gets big enough. I think it will be quite marvelous when done, with a Victorian flare. Opulent and luscious. $25 for the whole lot of them! Yes, I lost no time whatsoever getting them to the cashier!

73 degrees this afternoon!! Lot's of melting now, about a foot to go and I think this week will probably see the end of most of it. There's a strange looking dark substance under the snow; I think it's dirt if I remember correctly. It has been a long winter!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Not so scrappy ...

I'm setting aside the scrap heap to finish the top I began last year. It was left to rest after I got stuck on color, but the ice has thawed and I have a plan. It will be the most intricate top I've pieced once it's done and I'm taking steps with care, aiming to achieve clear points and clean seams. So far, not too bad, knock on wood. I'm glad to be excited about this project once more and now that there's a rough plan in place, there's plenty of motivation.

It came to me today that I'm on quite a quilt kick at the moment, and must say it's wonderfully enjoyable. A fun media to work with.

The 2nd round is finished, 3 or 4 more to go ...

I think spinning will come back shortly--when the weather warms a bit and I can spin outside. I was noticing today that I've an itching to work on that fleece I bought last summer. Something wonderful to look forward to.

We rehearsed this piece last night, sigh ...