Friday, April 3, 2020

Riding the Roller Coaster of Life

Well, I certainly didn't expect to fall off that cliff. After a very productive couple of days building a new baby quilt for the Little Lambs Foundation work came to an abrupt halt. Granted, it was a natural stopping point. All that remains is some kind of outer border treatment. However, my attention has been turned elsewhere. In spite of the fact that I spend most of my days sheltering in place due to my chemical sensitivities the ripple effect of the coronavirus pandemic has somehow taken a toll on my creativity and productivity. Maybe because every member of our household falls into the high risk category for Covid-19 for one reason or another. Just getting weekly groceries has become a more hazardous mission than in the past. That makes non-essential items not worth the effort to procure if they can't be had via an online vendor. As it turns out, not all of them are - at least not at a price I'm willing to pay. So my retail therapy options are more limited than ever before. That's enough to depress anyone I guess.

Son and I did venture out to purchase a half-barrel in which to plant the Roald Dahl rose bush I ordered before the virus took over the world. Fortunately, hardware and garden centers are still open for business. They have been deemed essential, no doubt for the health and well being of the general public! And we actually had cleaner air around our home that day so we were able to clean the deck and get the rose settled into place.

I want to get some annuals to plant around the baby rose to give the barrel some color while it gets established. I'm thinking we may need to uproot the rose, put more soil in the barrel, and then replant it. I didn't realize it was sitting so low in the pot until after we had a rain shower overnight.

One of our smaller pots has some volunteer violets in amongst the weeds.

I have a hard time getting outdoors to do any weeding or other gardening due to the noxious fumes that emanate from neighboring homes. It cheers me up no end to see a bit of color through my windows. Around the side of our house the rosemary is in bloom too. There aren't any windows over there though. 😞

At about the time that work stopped on the baby quilt (which I will eventually share with you in another post) my friend C~ brought over a needlepoint kit she thought I would enjoy stitching up for her. She'd found it at a thrift shop, obviously a souvenir from someone's cruise.

Her husband refers to their only granddaughter as "Princess." She asked me if I could just stitch that word and cover up the word 'Cruises.' Yes, I could. But that would have left 'Princess' shoved all the way to the top of the cosmetic case and left a lot of empty space between the word and the rest of the design. So to begin with I shifted 'Princess' down a bit. I also did my best to shift those little white flowers up a bit.

This project was just what I needed. It gave me the opportunity to do some rhythmic, mindless basketweave stitching for the background. Now I'm tackling the smaller, more detailed areas. I'm finding myself drawn to other embroidery projects too. Something about working on small, hand-held projects has more appeal than trying to work out a quilt plan on the design wall or even cutting patches. I'd even be pleased to sew down a binding on any - or all - of the quilts that are ready for that last step. I just need to get the bindings onto the quilts. If only I could muster up the energy that requires...

Sunday, March 29, 2020

More Stitching - SAL #2 in March

This is one of those months when we have two Stitch Along check-ins for this group of needleworkers. We show our progress every three weeks, and each of us is working on the project of our choice. This SAL is a great way to tackle UFO's. The current coronavirus quarantine situation is also helping a lot of folks get unfinished projects done. πŸ˜‰

Most recently I've been embroidering dish towels in an effort to freshen my skills and just have some fun. The last time you saw the current dish towel it looked like this:

I've since filled in the red flower petals and added the little flowers underneath them.

Because I'm using these towels for practice and experimentation I used a different shade of red for the interior of the petals than I'd used for outlining them. I was amazed at how the values of the blossoms changed. All the floss has subtle color gradations because it's Nancy Turner's hand dyed cotton floss. But the lighter flowers went darker - not a surprise - and the darker flowers lightened up. It was an eye opening exercise for me.

This isn't the only needlework I've been doing lately but I'll save the other projects for other posts. In the meantime, here are the links for the other needle artists in this SAL. Grab a cuppa and enjoy!

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Heidi, Jackie, 
Sunny, Hayley,Megan, Deborah, MaryMargaret, Renee, Carmela, Jocelyn, Sharon, 
Daisy, Anne, Connie, AJ, Jenny,Laura, Cathie, Linda

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Now It's Our Turn

Our state is now officially under a stay-at-home order. Up until yesterday it was merely a strong suggestion. I can understand it's hard on folks to stay home, especially around here in spring when trees and flowers are beginning to bloom. I generally try to take a tour of the fields just west of us to monitor the progress of the daffodils, then tulips, and finally irises. Always from the safety of my vehicle. I rarely get out of it because I never know what toxic fumes might be in the air. I've also run out of cut flowers in my studio. Since my personal self isolation began several years ago my husband has learned to buy flowers for me when he gets groceries. Flowers are probably not considered essential by most folks but they are for me. I've had a couple of vases of early variety daffodils come and go already. I won't have anything blooming in the yard to cut and bring in for a couple of months in all likelihood. I have no notion of what he might find when he goes for groceries the next time. 

Our local economy gets a significant boost in April with the annual Tulip Festival. The fields are currently closed to the public. There are also a couple of display gardens in conjunction with the festival. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to open this year. I was delighted to learn that one of the growers has opened up a roadside stand where one can buy cut or potted tulips among other things. The young ladies tending the stand wore protective gloves and the way things are set up it's hard to get too close for safety. I'm always masked when I go out in public too. So now I have some cheerful yellow tulips to brighten my living/working space. πŸ˜€

I noticed other businesses in town also trying to make the best of things. We have an independent art and craft store that has recently installed a pottery painting area and a kiln (I assume there's a kiln; I haven't been in to see in person). They have a sign on the sidewalk in front of the store advertising take-away pottery and art kits! On a less happy note, this is what our neighborhood playground now looks like:

All wrapped up in caution tape. I'm betting there's a sign somewhere prohibiting use of the facilities. I didn't get out of my car to look. 

A couple of other, more pleasant, sights from the surrounding countryside:

Alpacas still wearing their winter fleece.

The field adjacent to the alpacas had obviously been used at some point in time to grow daffodils. You can see them in the previous photo behind the alpacas. 

There didn't seem to be as many fields of daff's as in the past. I think the bulb industry has taken a hit in recent years. Or for some reason we have fewer growers in our area now. They were family-owned farms. Small businesses like that have suffered all across the country, and not just because of the current medical crisis. 

Daffodils were my mother's favorite flower. I've come to appreciate them more every year. I'm okay with daffodil-colored tulips for now though. 😊

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Belated National Quilt Day Observance

Since I've been unable to attend my local quilt guild meetings for over a decade now I've sort of lost touch with some of the goings-on in the universal quilt community. I see blog posts about National Sewing Day or Craft Month or whatever but I'm never quite prepared to participate or comment here as they occur. As my mother used to say, always a day late and a dollar short. In any event, 21 March was National Quilting Day.

But! One day this past week I was inspired to look through the single Trip Around the World blocks I've been making out of my 3" scrap bin. In addition to this block I showed in our last Scrap Happy Day post...

I found three others that sort of worked with that one.

Three of the four blocks feature teddy bears in one or more patches. The fourth block carries on with the yellow found in two other blocks. And who doesn't love a baby elephant?! I found another teddy bear patch in the scrap bin to use for a cornerstone in sashing between the blocks. And then I found scrap strips that worked for sashing - at least to my eyes. It might be too busy for some.

To top is all off, I found the leftovers of another baby quilt to use for the final, outer border.

Used that all up. πŸ˜ƒThis would totally qualify for a Scrap Happy Day project but I didn't want to wait that long to share it with you. And besides that, it's already been quilted and is ready to be bound!

James used a variegated thread and a large meander. It probably took him longer to mount it on the long arm than it did to do the quilting. He said the quilting only took about ten minutes. I have a happy red binding all set to finish this off.

This little quilt (about 39" square) will be my first quilt for this year's Hands2Help quilt drive. It will go to the Little Lambs Foundation in Utah. From start to finish this was such a quick project, only a matter of a couple of days. (Well, disregarding the binding process of course.) Might have to make another one next week! 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Then and Now

I have a massive headache but thought I'd check in to give you newly homebound folks something to distract yourselves with. πŸ˜‰For any relative newcomers, I'm an old hand at self isolation. It's the best protection I have against the toxins in our environment that make me so ill.

I've forgotten for the moment how I came across this book by Tilly Rose.

No doubt someone else mentioned it on their blog. Ah! Margaret, over at the Crafty Creek! I was so inspired by what she's doing that I ordered the book immediately and then waited impatiently for it to be delivered. (It didn't arrive as quickly as promised but did get here safely in the end.) I've read through it at least twice so far - after having hubby remove the spine and slipping the pages into archival page protectors so I could absorb the information and imagery safely.

Several of my foremothers were skilled with needle and thread. I have two crazy quilts in my possession. I'm pretty sure both were made by the same woman but I have no factual documentation to back that up. One, as I remember it, is in pretty good condition. The second one is more accessible, mostly because it's disintegrating and I knew I'd have to take steps to preserve what I could.

There are more of the fragile old silks in this quilt and fewer embroidered motifs than in the other as I recall. I was hoping to salvage whole squares from this quilt but I don't think that's going to be possible now. The back is in such good shape I hate to cut into it at all!

Most impressive to me is the consistency of the feather stitching along the seam lines in this quilt.

I haven't yet figured out what I'm going to do with this or how I might utilize parts of it but Tilly has certainly given me lots to think about. And in the meantime I thought I'd have a go at a smaller project to try my hand at her processes.

At the end of her book Tilly Rose talks about making luggage or gift tags from snippets of fabric and lace. There's not much difference between gift tags and bookmarks so I decided to make myself a bookmark, using a shipping tag for a template. I've been tossing my fabric scraps that are less than 1.5" in width into lunch bags - and wondering why I was keeping them at all. I've done crumb blocks in the past but haven't been interested in making more in a long time. Good thing I hadn't tossed or given those bags away just yet!

I don't understand how/why I'm casting shadows when I use my phone to take pictures.
Could it be the sun was actually shining through the window behind me when I took this picture?!

One day's efforts brought my bookmark to this point:

The top edge is still raw and there's no back on it yet. I'm not quite sure how to proceed. I want to do a little bit of embroidery down the lavender strip - or something - and I'd like to have a firm back on it, not fabric. I'm thinking watercolor paper rather than the shipping tag. For now, however, I think I'm going to take a break and try to build a quilt top. Or put binding on one of the three quilts awaiting binding. What I do NOT need to do is make more quilt blocks!!!