Sunday, August 14, 2022

Middlin' Through August

Last week we were away for a few days, visiting our friend who lives on New Smyrna Beach (Atlantic Ocean). It's always lovely to see her, and get a fresh perspective on life in Florida. This is a morning view from her tenth floor condo.

An outdoor lunch at the Outrigger (restaurant) was especially nice. 

We couldn't believe our luck at being beachside when another Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral at 10:14 pm, carrying 52 satellites! I really wished I'd taken my camera along, rather than capture poor, grainy iPhone photos. The rocket was orange. It was remarkable to hear the sound too!

A thank you gift to our hostess, for her always-generous hospitality was my Seaglass quilt #2, finished in May. This is the one made with a linen background. She seemed to love it, and intends to hang it in her condo. 

Machine-piecing time has been very sporadic, so there's not much different happening with my improv log cabin quilt top. 

Starting August 1, I've been participating in "30 Days of Improv QAL" #30daysofimprovqal hosted by @shannonfraserdesigns and @broadclothstudios on Instagram. Though it's suggested that in five days of block-making each block should be about 5" X 5", we're free to do as we wish. I am.

Week 1: Stripes

Week 2: Polygons
I chose to focus on trapezoids. I'm keeping this totally improv and haven't been using any rulers, but my blocks haven't been very wonky. I've spent too many decades rotary cutting precisely using a ruler! The un-wonkiness of my blocks may be something I correct once I start joining blocks together. 

The end is in sight with my Alison Glass Stitch Club Kantha Sew Along! Good thing; it's due August 31. I have 16 more rows (75" long) to stitch. You can see the blank spaces that need to be filled it along the bottom of the dark blue section. 

Yesterday, our Central Florida MQG meeting program was "Demo Day." Six stations were set up to show how to choose colors, appliqué, set up quilt photos, use a particular ruler, improv piece, and make Kawandi. Six times I explained and demonstrated Kawandi using two different in-progress Kawandi. This is one I'm working on using more of my Grandma's vintage scraps. 

I mentioned also that Sujata Shah, who taught me Kawandi in a November 2020 virtual workshop, will be teaching Kawandi at QuiltCon 2023, next February, in Atlanta.

This Tuesday morning at 10 AM (Eastern time) QuiltCon registrations open for MQG members only, A lecture costs $14.40 (last year $12.75) and a half-day workshop is $96 (last year $79.20). Just another  instance of rising costs. Still, I plan to be in line online to get my free admission, a few lectures, and two workshops.

Book Recommendations
It's apparent I need to blog more frequently because my book recommendations are piling up!

http://The first review is of an e-book, a very short story in the "Ruth Galloway series" by Elly Griffiths. Ruth's First Christmas Tree is a charming piece about Ruth needing a Christmas tree because her daughter Kate needs to experience a real Christmas. Ruth buys a tree from a roadside vendor, who absconds with the tree and the money paid for it, so DCI Harry Nelson (Kate's father) and Cathbad make sure Ruth and Kate have a proper tree.

This book - number 4.5 in the series - isn't necessary to the plot of Ruth Galloway stories, but was a nice read. I was able to download it at no charge through Google Books.

Because the story is so short, I'm not counting it in my year-long tally of books read with is 56 as of this blog post. Linda's score: 3.5/5.0

A Dying Fall is also an e-book, written in Elly Griffiths' well-done style.

In this fifth book of the series, Ruth is traveling - with Kate and Cathbad - to Blackpool to follow-up on a letter Ruth received following the death (in a house fire) of an archeology college mate, Dan. In the letter, Dan indicates he's found the burial site of King Arthur. As a forensic archeologist, Ruth is intrigued to visit the site and see the bones. When Ruth discovers the bones have been replace (the upper and lower jaws don't match), Dan's computer and notes are missing, and she receives threatening text messages, she realizes Dan's death may not be accidental. Meanwhile DCI Harry Nelson is on holiday in Blackpool, visiting his mother, and reconnecting with an old friend on the police force. when he Nelson learns about the case, and becomes involved because of Ruth and Kate.  Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

Remarkably Bright Creatures is a delightful book written by Shelby Van Pelt.

Seventy year-old Tova Sullivan is a widow who volunteers as a nighttime cleaner at a local aquarium. She takes pride in her work, making sure every surface is spic and span. She also talks to tanks of sea creatures as she works. One night she discovers the giant Pacific octopus, Marcellus, in the break room, tangled in electrical cords. She frees him and helps him return to his tank. From that experience she develops a unique relationship with him.

The story is also about Tova's girlfriends - they're the Knit-Wits; Ethan who owns the local grocery store; Tova's son Erik who disappeared at the age of 18; and the knowledge Marcellus has about what happened that night. When Cameron comes to town looking for his long-lost father, he meets Ethan and Tova, and things begin to change. 

It took me a bit to get my head around this story because much of it is told by Marcellus, the giant Pacific octopus! It's excellently narrated by Marin Ireland and Michael Urie. Linda's score: 4.4/5.0

Dirt Creek by Haley Scrivenor, takes place in a small town in rural Australia. Esther and Ronnie (Veronica) are 12 year-old best friends who have grown up together. When Esther disappears while walking home from school, Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels is put on the case, asking questions of everyone who knows Esther - her parents, relatives and school mates. When school friend Lewis tells Detective Michaels that he saw Esther walking along the creek with a man Lewis has never seen, more questions are raised than answered. Ronnie is determined to find Esther herself. 

Sophie Loughran beautifully narrates this book - don'tcha just love an Aussie accent? This is Hayley Scrivenor's debut novel. I'll be watching for more from her! 

Linda's score: 4.4/5.0

Linda

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

My Palms, and Mr. Bismarck

I'm making progress on my improv log cabin blocks. I worked out how to join blocks without squaring them up first. I wanted all the seams on a freehand cut improv curve, and that's what I got.

In this close-up picture, you can see how I used striped fabric to make compensating strips so the blocks fit together.

The center diamond shape is complete and measures about 55" X 55" on the square. 

Now I'm working out how to put the neutral improv blocks in each of the four triangle-shaped corners.
  

Our August 13 Central Florida MQG meeting will be "Demo Day." I've been invited to demo how to make Kawandi, so I've begun prep work to have a couple in-progress examples to use as explanation. 

This novelty print of kitchen utensils is the backing of one Kawandi that's inspiration for the scrappy fabric colors - orange, purple, raspberry and green - that will be used on the front. I found five colors of #12 perle cotton to stitch with - four are Wonderfil Spagetti; one is Aurifil.

The second Kawandi will be made with more of my Grandma's vintage scraps. I have a box of 2½" and 3" cut squares. Before using, they needed washing... washing, rinsing, washing, and rinsing to clean away all the dirt, age, and dye. No doubt, when it's done I'll find another relative who will appreciate having this keepsake Kawandi. 

I haven't been buying fabric lately (Gosh, haven't prices gone up?!), prints in particular, but the cheery brightness of these 16 Deco Glo print by Guicy Guice are too cheerful to miss out on. I bought a little extra of the teal color (on the right). 

It seems that too many prints are flowery florals. Those aren't me. So when I find prints with graphic designs, it's time to make an investment. Deco Glo is made by Andover Fabrics. I bought this bundle from Stash Fabrics

No doubt you're getting as sick of seeing my Kantha as I am. I keep stitching. Every day. Even hubs has noticed that it always seems to be in my lap, saying "Aren't you about done with that thing yet?!" I'm trying! Hope to finish by the August 31 deadline. 

Book Recommendations
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Malloy is a book probably meant for the younger generation. It focuses on a "mommy group," something that wasn't a thing when I was a young mother. But the story is familiar and also plenty intriguing. As each young mom in this group of "May Mothers" (all the babies were born in the month of May) is handling new experiences - nighttime feedings, fussiness, keeping up with laundry, cooking, eeking out exercise time, and returning to work - they're meeting twice weekly at a neighborhood park to complain and encourage each other. 

When the May Mothers decide it's time to have their first evening out without babies, and Winnie's son, Midas, goes missing while in the care of a sitter, each mother realizes how little they truly know about one another. The police question each mother, and while the group continues to meet, secrets come to light. One mom is determined to find Midas, even if it's at the expense of her own family, and these friendships. 

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams is about Tiny, a young woman who feels a compulsion to always do what people expect... whatever is the "right thing to do," Tiny does it, even when it goes against her personal desires.

When Tiny meets the man of her dreams, Frank, who will take her places with him as he aspires to higher and higher political offices, she dutifully follows him, becoming the ideal wife and partner. Yet she can't forget meeting Caspian, who came into her life just before she got married. When it comes to light that Caspian is Frank's cousin, and Caspian returns home from Vietnam as a hero, she remembers what she missed out on. Yet her duty remains to Frank and his family. 

Not for the first time, I was taken in, selecting this book as a stand-alone read. After the fact, I discovered that it's book #2 in the Schuyler Sisters series. 

Linda's score: 3.5/5.0

The Edge of Summer by Viola Shipman, is a book with good "sipping" quality. It's slow-paced (not a psychological thriller), and expects the reader to ponder and reflect. Profound thoughts and statements had me hitting replay to listen again.

Sutton Douglas was raised by her mother, Miss Mabel, in a cabin on a lake in the Ozarks. Miss Mabel sewed for income and loved buttons, collecting and using them. All her life, Sutton (her name rhymes with button) has wanted to know about her family's history, so when she has the chance, she follows clues on a search that takes her to Saugatauk, Michigan. There, the Dandy Button Company once made shell buttons (among other types) from clams harvested in Lake Michigan. Scenes that take place in Saugatauk-Douglas make me want to visit this charming area!
The whole book contains references to sewing, zippers, garment construction, and quilting. Miss Mabel's old Singer sewing machine is named Old Betsy.

This is the first book I've read since the pandemic that happens during and after the pandemic, with conversation about COVID-19 deaths, and the mental and emotional aftermath of quarantine.

After completing The Edge of Summer, I Googled Voila Shipman and learned that the author is a man, Wade Roush, who selected the pen name to honor his grandmother. He learned about sewing while watching both his grandmothers sew. The author, who definitely has a soft side, wrote a story that will touch the heart of anyone who's ever sewed or quilted. Just keep in mind that it's very slow-paced.

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

I read 13 books during the month of July! I was pretty astounded to realize that and tallied the audiobooks to determine how many hours I spent listening: 119 hours 8 minutes spent on 11 audiobooks! Two books were E-books.

Wow.

So much listening is pretty indicative of the amount of time I've spent hand stitching that Kantha quilt. Well yes, I listen to books while power walking, and doing weekly housework too, but the bulk of listening time was spent with a quilt on my lap. My goodness. Won't I be grateful when that darned quilt is finished?!

As many of you know, we made the decision to keep the Bismarck palm that's in the middle of our front yard, though it's a bit overwhelming on that small plot of land. A tree trimmer came Saturday afternoon to give Mr. Bismarck a spiffing-up. 

The trimmer chained-sawed off lower fronds, and pulled out chunks of dead palm fronds that were stuck in the herringbone pattern of the trunk.
 


Lastly, long branches of seed pods were sawed off at the base. Now the crown is more open. 


Initially, as we watched, we were a bit startled to see the huge fronds being lopped off and falling to the ground. But as the trimmer went along, we could see the overall improvement of the palm's appearance. Mr. Bismarck is very healthy! Hopefully we'll need to do this only once a year now. 

This is now my view from my aqua sewing room chair. Not bad at all. 

Hoping to leave you with a smile...
Linda

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Stitching, Piecing, and More Books

I've got a pretty good summertime rhythm going. It's sort of a Groundhog Day existence that's a combo of devotion time, exercise, machine piecing, hand stitching, and book-listening. It's quietly routine and peaceful.

All I have for pretty pictures is more of what I've had my hands on, including these scissors that can be found laying everywhere in the sewing room. I use each one, but am especially fond of the kangaroo scissors (center right), gifted to me by Di J. when I was in Sydney, Australia teaching beginner quiltmaking. I also like those (top) won in an Instagram giveaway from @warmcrochet that's now Warm Heart Scissors

They're arranged on a piece of one of Painter's Palette 42 new solid colors: Topaz. 

My Alison Glass Stitch Club Kantha Sew Along project continues. The end still isn't in sight. 

I've hand-stitched the 75" length of the quilt 137 times, using approximately 285 yards of Eleganza #8 perle cotton thread... so far. The ripply texture is becoming apparent.

At the sewing machine, I'm making more improv log cabin blocks. One type of log cabin is made with four values of three colors around an orange hearth.

The second type of block is pieced from Painter's Palette neutrals in the colors white, oyster, and rice paper. Every block has a skinny black and white striped insert. 

Playing around with layouts, I think I'm leaning toward something like this, with one large centered diamond. Still working out how to join them, preferably without cutting each one into a precise square.

Book Recommendations
If you read The Rose Code by Kate Quinn - and if you haven't, you must! - then you'll know that The Diamond Eye, also by Kate Quinn is another must-read. 

This book is based on the life of female Soviet sniper Mila Pavlichenko. Mila learns to shoot, becomes a skilled rifle marksman, and after receiving certification, enlists in the army when Russia is invaded. Though she has a difficult time convincing male officers of her abilities, over time she proves herself, and earns the respect of men in her command. When Hitlerites invade Russia, Mila's skills and cunning become renown; she's known as "Lady Death." After being wounded again, instead of being returned to the front, she's sent with a Russian delegation to the US to garner help for her country from President Roosevelt. She and Eleanor Roosevelt become friends, and Mila becomes embroiled in an attempt on the president's life. 

This is such an intriguing bit of history! Don't miss the author's message at the end, explaining where she obtained factual material, how she used it, and how she wove it into a truthful and partially-fictitious story.

Linda's score: 4.5/5.0

Take Your Breath Away
 by Linwood Barclay is one of those stories that will echo in your head for several days after reading it. I believe it's because the author does such a good job of entwining fictional personality traits into the reasons for what's happened. 

Brie and Andrew Mason (a building contractor) live in an older home that they intend to either fix-up or tear down to start anew. When Andy goes away for a weekend stay at their lake home, and to spend time with his friend and business partner, Brie goes missing. No one thinks Andy is innocent, including his outspoken sister-in-law, and the lead female detective on the case. It's now six years later and a series of sightings lead Brie's husband and family to think she may be back in town. But by now, Andy has a new girlfriend whose brother is living with them, Brie's mother is dying of cancer, and there's been a recent murder.  

The male narrator, George Newbern, who plays Andrew Mason, is fantastic! If you listened to Goodnight Beautiful, also by Linwood Barclay, you'll recognize his voice. 

Linda's score: 4.3/5.0

A Room Full of Bones
by Elly Griffiths is book #4 in the Ruth Galloway series, and I think is better than the third book. Ruth is now somewhat more settled into her role as Kate's mother, and Kate has begun calling all men "Dada." An Australian rents the house next door to Ruth, intending to repatriate Aboriginal bones from the local Smith museum. When the Smith museum director is found dead next to a coffin, holding the bones of a medieval bishop, detective Nelson heads to the horse ranch of the museum's owner to begin searching for answers. Mysteries surround bones, skulls, drug-smuggling, and The Dreaming.

Linda's score 4.0/5.0 

Intending to read book 5 in this series which is A Dying Fall, I learned that there's actually a book numbered 4.5: Ruth's First Christmas Tree. It's described as a novella, and I was dismayed to find it's not available through my library apps. However, it was a happy surprise to find it's a FREE download from Google Books. So, I'll next be reading Ruth's First Christmas Tree. Then, A Dying Fall.

In a show of support for my modern quilt making friends in Central Florida MQG, I'm joining another QAL (quilt along) that I came across through Instagram. It's being co-coordinated by Shannon Fraser @shannonfraserdesigns and Amanda @broadclothstudio and is called #30DaysOfImprovQAL

Once you sign-up for their weekly email - go here to do that - each Sunday you'll receive information and instructions about making five 5"improv blocks in the upcoming week. By the end of August you'll have 25 blocks to put together into an improv quilt. 

The first email arrived Sunday with guidance for selecting five fabrics. I'm going with all solids. Painter's Palette colors from L-R are:

Daisy, Yarrow, Topaz (new color), Poseidon, and Limelight.

If you're an EQ8 user, you might like to know that Paintbrush Studios offers a swatch download of all Painter's Palette solid colors, including the new ones! I imported the swatches (they're loaded by name!) into EQ8 to use when designing a quilt. This is my QAL color mock-up created in EQ8.

I'm following the Instagram hashtag #30DaysOfImprovQAL so I hope you see you on it too! Linda

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Improv and Book Reviews

Five yards of Painter's Palette "Clementine" arrived (mail ordered from Pineapple Fabrics), and once again I'm reminded why I love this line of solids by Paintbrush Studios. In my quiltmaking history, having had two quilts suffer from fabric bleeding (though I am a life-long fabric pre-washer), I'm always cognizant of the possibility that fabric will bleed. Kaufman Kona has failed that test on several occasions. 

Yet every time, when I pre-wash Painter's Palette, the Color Catcher (can you see it in the lower left corner?) comes out white! I hope Paintbrush Studio never stops manufacturing their solids this way. As well, this Clementine exactly matches the small (less than a yard) piece of Clementine I already have in my stash. 

No bleeding? Matching dye lots? What more can a quilt maker ask for?

Now I have everything needed to begin foundation paper piecing the EQ8 improv design I came up with, however, another project has jumped into the queue - an improv log cabin quilt. 

One of several challenge themes for QuiltCon 2023 is "APQ Modern Log Cabin Quilt Challenge." (MQG members: read challenge information here.) I've never liked log cabin blocks, and have never made a log cabin quilt. However, I asked myself, "How could I make a log cabin block different, so it would be fun?" Such questions are sort of what "making modern" is all about. 

Could I make curved improv logs? Digging through and choosing colors from my bin of all solid colors (quantities of a fat quarter or less), augmented by smaller scraps sorted by colors in shoeboxes, I started with an orange center (traditional log cabins have a red center) surrounded by four values of a color. 

Since I've wanted to learn how to add "skinny inset seams" that seem to be appearing in modern quilts, I Googled to find a 2015 inset seaming blog tutorial by Stephanie Ruhle @spontaneousthreads. Stephanie made straight insets, but it wasn't difficult to make them curved, and cut from black and white striped fabric. I like where the project is going, though the layout is a big question mark. 

This is a good place to share something I heard in the book Since We Fell (review below). The character is writing a book and reflected that on some days words flowed better than other days.

I'm paraphrasing to describe a quilt maker's creative flow: 
Some days creativity flows like a faucet. Other days it's like cutting an artery.  

Ha! It's true, isn't it? When a quiltmaker is trying to make an original design, it often doesn't come easily.

Though I've been trying improvisational piecing for several years now, taking workshops as well as making my own attempts (see log cabins above!), improv remains my most personally challenging modern quiltmaking method. I have plenty of space to learn more. 

So, I registered for the free "30 Day of Improv Quilt Along" being co-hosted by @shannonfraserdesigns and @broadclothstudio. We'll be making improv blocks during the month of August. Today, the quilt along features a free Zoom lecture by Pat Bravo (Art Gallery Fabrics) who will talk about color.

It's not too late to join in. Go here to register on the form that looks like this.

Book Recommendations

The House at Sea's End is the third book in the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Since listening to the first book, I haven't been able to get them as audiobooks, so this is another e-book that I read on my iPhone.

Dr. Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist, continues to work with the local police whenever a body is discovered. So when six skeleton's are found lodged in a seaside cliff that has begun crumbling away, Ruth is called in. As she investigates, and works with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, she's still uncertain about her relationship him. He's a married man with two daughters. Ruth's own daughter, Kate, has a naming celebration organized by druid Cathbad, and Kate is also baptized.  

Linda's score: 3.8/5.0

The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson is about Aidan the father of twins who, on the same day he buries his wife, also learns he's won the lottery. Now a millionaire (several times over), the story picks up weeks later as he's moved himself and children into a grand home in Bury, New Hampshire. What Aidan doesn't learn until he moves in, is that the house has a history. More than a year ago, the previous owner and several family members went missing, and still haven't been found. Aidan begins receiving threatening notes, and even though his past sins begin to loom, he's determined to find out what happened to the family. His efforts lead to more fear and danger for Aidan and his twins.

Linda's score: 3.9/5.0

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt is an unlikely story about a chance meeting in an airport between two women who live near one another in Jupiter, Florida. One of them, Kat, is unhappily married and super-rich and the other, Alice, is somewhat happily married with two children, but struggling to pay bills. 

When Kat's husband is found dead, having fallen from the balcony of their gorgeous mansion, suspicions are roused when a witness reports seeing a woman on the balcony with him. Both Kat and Alice are suspect, and two detectives are determined to identify the murderer.

Linda's score: 3.8/5.0

Since We Fell by Dennis LeHane reminds me why I don't often read books written by male authors. Of course there are exceptions, but this book isn't one of them. There's entirely too much unnecessary "f-bomb" dropping, and the story moves very slowly. I nearly left it unfinished, but I wanted to know what happened to Rachel. 

When the story begins, Rachel's mother has just died, having never revealed to Rachel the name of her father. So she begins her search starting with detective, Brian, then to a friend of her mother's, and finally to her father. Rachel, who is a Boston TV reporter, has a break-down while on air, is in an unhappy marriage, and becomes a recluse. She reconnects with Brian, and he's almost too good to be true. He leads her on a path she never could have imagined herself on.  

Linda's score: 3.2/5.0
I guess you can tell that I've been tearing through books as I've spent time in my sewing room (still hand quilting that "bless-ed" Kantha quilt!) and power walking frequently. I apologize for the brevity of the book reviews. Writing these still feels like an unpleasant homework assignment, but hopefully my scores give you the guidance you need to decide whether or not to read a title.

You may be interested to know - and perhaps a little happy for me - that we have made the decision to NOT have our Bismarck palm removed. A second tree man, who actually came to the house to access the tree, affirmed that it's beautiful, healthy, and asked: "Why would you want to take it out? Trees grow in Florida." So, instead of taking it out and selling it (which he told us he would do), next week we'll have it groomed to remove a few broken/dead fronds and seed pods. By the way, we also learned that our Bismarck is a "he." 

We are relieved and happy about this momentous decision which was "more difficult than buying a new car," according to hubs. We'll continue to enjoy the palm for many years - truly a "flourishing palm." 

Linda

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