Friday, March 26, 2021

Quilting Circles

The entire focus of sewing time has been on my Central Florida MQG Scrap Challenge quilt that's due to be shared at our Saturday, April 17 outdoor meeting at a local park. 

This is the 71" x 80" quilt top. 

Last weekend was spent machine quilting.

I spiral-quilted the 14 scrap-pieced inset circles by walking foot quilting along the outside edge of the circle, spiraling to the inside. When the space remaining to be quilted inside the circle was about 4" to 5" - because the interior of the circle was too tight for a walking foot - I used an air-erasable marker to free-hand draw the remaining spiral that I free motion quilted after switching to a quilting foot. 

When the scrappy circles were quilted, I quilted the inside and outside of each of the seven inset rings.

Then I used a Hera marker and these nested acrylic circles to draw different-sized randomly-placed double rings (one inch between each ring) across the entire quilt - mimicking the quilting around the rings. These were walking foot quiltedwith white thread.

The machine-quilted rings can be seen here, on either side of the pieced ring.

Now I'm big stitch hand quilting, again using a Hera marker and an acrylic circle to draw different sized circles to quilt with one of nine colors of size 8 pearl cotton.

I'm lovin' the effect! The design, with all that negative space, seemed empty before. Big stitched circles add more interest and dimension. I'll keep going until I think I've quilted enough. 

Circles are quick to stitch when the length of each stitch is ⅜" to ½". 

I'd thought to use black and white striped binding to finish the quilt, but a friend (Judi @willwork4fabric) pointed out that black fabric with white circles would be more appropriate. I found these at my LQS, Sew Together. Now to decide which looks best. 

While the dot fabrics were being cut, I spied two wide-back bolts that had just arrived. Two yards of each of these came home with me because I'm out of wide backs. Darn, but I wish I'd had that circle print, on the right, to use as backing on this circles quilt! It would have been too perfect.

Book Recommendations
You can tell it's been nearly a week since I posted because I have three books to recommend! All three were pleasant entertainment. With the first two titles, you'll think I've been on an Australia kick, as they both take place there and are narrated with the best Aussie accents!

I have listened to other books by Sally Hepworth, and like those, The Family Next Door is one that keeps the reader guessing. The story is about several families who live on the same street in a Melbourne suburb. Readers get to know three women in particular - one who is happily married, but has struggled with postpartum depression; one who is happily married, but has a big secret; and one who has recently moved into the neighborhood, and is suspiciously single. Stories revolve around infidelity, raising babies, and the angst of infant abduction. I didn't see some of it coming, and some of it I did. 

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton is crude and simultaneously, interesting. Jaxson is a teenage who's lived a hard life with an abusive father. Upon finding his father dead, Jaxie flees on foot, entering desolate and threatening land in Western Australia. But he wants to be far away from people. When alone, he often thinks of Lee, the love he vows to return to. In the meantime, he fends for himself, hunting emu and 'roo in a rugged and unforgiving environment... until he encounters another man who's more alone and isolated than Jaxie. 

My big forewarning about this book is language! Jaxie swears. A lot, and frequently. And he uses Australian slang. Having been to Australia myself, I came home with my own "dictionary" of Australian lingo - like "arvo" means afternoon; and "bitumen" is a road. But Jaxie's narration had me stumped a few times. I had to look up words like "manky" which means dirty or filthy. But most of the slang can be intuited by context.

I'd call this book raw. But it's also insightful. If you can get past the language, it would be a good one for discussion.

Linda's score: 4.4/5.0

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson takes place in the US. 

Angie and Paul Glass are recently married and living with their infant son in Door County, Wisconsin. When Paul's brother Henry, in Stonekill, New York is found dead (an apparent suicide) and Henry's wife Sijla is missing, Paul and Angie fly to New York to help 17 year-old Ruby through the devastation of being parentless. While staying in the Glass family's ultra-modern home at the edge of the woods, Angie makes discoveries about the Glass boys - including her own husband! - that have been kept quiet. And Angie learns that Ruby knows more than she's letting on. 

Given that the story takes place from the 1940s to 1960, it includes: the audaciousness of a career woman; being suspicious of everyone because they might be a communist; building a bomb shelter; and smoking on an airplane in a movie theater.
Linda's 4.0/5.0

While Face Timing with Texas grandsons last week, I got to watch Max the dog loving-up our youngest grandson, Luke. Don't they look sweet together?

I've gotten out of the house a little more this past week - going line dancing; golf-carting to a specialty store for much-needed clothing; and visiting my LQS - and have continued to take "refuge" (my 2021 word of the year) in devotions, and Sunday morning online worship with Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa.

I'm noticing that churches are welcoming its members back into their sanctuaries for in-person worship. Although we've attended 14 different churches through the 8½ years we've lived here, we haven't found a local church to call home. So, I'll keep attending online, and appreciate this pretty, spirit-filling Sunday morning view. 

It's particularly appropriate that Sunday morning is Palm Sunday. I've got palm fronds! Linda

Friday, March 19, 2021

Getting Out

Last Tuesday afternoon, we received our second Pfizer vaccinations. Though to find appointments we had to drive 72 miles each way, to another county, we're glad we did.

When we got home, I promptly sat down to make this "I've been vaccinated" tag to wear when I'm in group situations. I made it with a piece of Kraft-tex. Using 28-weight Aurifil thread, I stitched the letters and design on my Bernina 770QE. It took me a bit to work out how to affix the tag to my clothing, but I figured out that a double-layer of fabric, made like a pocket for the inside of a bag, that's sewn to the edge of the Kraft-tex worked great. I stuck half of a Sew-Tite (magnet used for English paper piecing) in the pocket and the other to the back of my shirt. It works. (This morning, my cardio-vascular doc admired it when I wore it to my six-month check-up.)

Other than both of us having tender arms after the first vaccine, we felt good. I didn't have such a happy experience with the second dose though. By Wednesday morning, I began to experience four of the possible eight side effects. By 4:30 pm I was sleeping under an afghan on the sofa, feeling chilled and drained. I woke by 9-ish to go to bed and sleep another nine hours. Thankfully, Thursday morning I felt right as rain, and rarin' to go. It was my birthday too! Time to celebrate!

I did so by returning to a recreational center for a 7:30 am line dance class. Until March 12, 2020,  I'd been attending those classes for seven years, so it felt good to be back! I discovered that though I wasn't familiar with the newer line dances, my brain remembered how to memorize the new routines. And funnily, when we later began dancing to old routines, as soon as I heard a song, my feet remembered the steps! I dance the entire 1 hour 40-minute class.

As soon as I returned home, we headed out to do what I wanted to do on my birthday: visit Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. I hadn't been there since I was a child.

Much of the land leading up to the tower is planted in orange groves. Fruit was ripe and being picked.

A bit of interesting information, learned in the museum: Edward Bok, the creative man behind building the tower, was a journalist who worked for Ladies Home Journal. Bok included Frank Lloyd Wright home floor plans in issues of the magazine, and he (Bok) is credited with coining the term "living room." 

The tower, which was built between 1926-1928 is still a beautiful site.

The "Singing Tower" contains 60 bells that are played by a carillonneur who manipulates a keyboard-looking line of wood handles. The first carillonneur lived in residence for 28 years. Now there are half hour-long performances at 1 and 3 pm daily. 

It was surprisingly busy for a Thursday, but I reminded myself that this is spring break week in Florida. 

Blooming azaleas were gorgeous.

We ate a light picnic lunch while on the grounds. 

On the way home, we stopped for dinner in Clermont at The Crooked Spoon. Hubs gifted me with some lotions and body sprays; and at various times throughout the day, I talked with both our kids; all five grandchildren; and received texts from my closest friends. It was a good day, and definitely a much better celebration than last year, when March 18 fell in the middle of our first week of lockdown. Yay for vaccines! 

For me, being able to get out again will likely signal a slow-down in making. While I'll always have WIPs, they won't be tackled as often because I fully intend to have less at-home time. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

The only thing I've accomplished at home since my last post was to do some wall rearranging to put up a couple quilts. I took down an old quilt from 2012, moved a 2017 quilt into its spot, and moved a 2020 quilt into the 2017 spot.
Jazzed, in the entryway

I moved two framed pictures to another wall, moved a 2013 quilt into their spot; and put a 2020 quilt into the 2013 spot. Makes complete sense right?! 
Hole Punch Ribbon in the chat room

I only need to find a place for Zing, my latest finish. I really want to hang it as it is a testament and reminder to me of how much work it takes to create an original design!

Gosh, I don't even have another book recommendation to make - another indiction of actually living life again! Linda

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Finish, and Start

About 18 months ago, I planted a Princess plant. I enjoy its blooms so much, I planted another.

Over the winter, the first plant got very leggy, and I could see it needed to be cut back. Info on the internet said to prune in March, so even though it was in full bloom I pruned it (yikes!) putting the cut stems in a vase to at least enjoy for a few days longer. 

This is what the plant looks like now. Was I too aggressive in my pruning? I sure hope it comes back because the window behind it is where I sit in my sewing room aqua chair to look out - admire the Princess plants and Bismarck palm, and watch people, pets, golf carts, and cars pass by. 

Two days ago, this is what the Bismarck palm looks like. Pedestrians passing by frequently stop to remark on it. It's so big (I'd guess about 25'-30' tall) and healthy! Each frond is wider than the expanse of both my arms spread apart.

I wanted to enter the latest Curated Quilts quarterly mini-challenge, requiring a specified color palette, and the themes "stripes" and "balance." Since I know how to make Maria Shell-type ribbons, and I like making circle shapes, I combined the two, piecing ribbons first, cutting circles from them, and machine appliquéing circles to a dove gray background (I'm trying to figure out why evening photos taken with my Canon camera appear pink, when I have LED full-spectrum daylight lights in the room.) 

Ick! All I could see was Easter eggs. After posting this picture to Instagram a comment was, “I suddenly have the desire to play croquet!” 😂

Remembering several quilters who have suggested if you don’t like a piece, chop it up, I decided to do just that. But I first printed the photo onto paper, and cut up the paper before cutting into fabric. This looks a little better, though another comment on Instagram is that it looks like Easter eggs. Sigh.
Dance Around, 14" X 14"

I've missed having a kawandi to hand stitch. So, thinking through possible ways to make a different Siddi-style kawandi, I decided to try making a round one. This is a 17½" diameter circle drawn onto backing fabric using a Dritz "Quilter's See-Through Drafting Ruler.” Batting is Quilter's Dream Request cut with scissors.

Typically when making a kawandi, fabric pieces are torn and folded along a straight edge. Because I needed to be a little more precise, I free-hand rotary cut a gentle curve along one side, and a tapered angle along another side. Then I pressed with an iron and pinned, pinned, pinned. In traditional kawandi, pins aren't used. 

I've stitched around it several times now, and I like how it’s looking.

The urgency to complete this "Modern Scrap Challenge" is mounting, as the Central Florida MQG due date for our quilts is April 17. I completed the 71" X 80" quilt top Monday afternoon.

By bedtime it was pin-basted, ready for some stabilizing machine quilting before I switch to big stitch hand quilting. 

For backing, I chose a stashed white, tone-on-tone wideback that wasn't quite long enough. I pieced a print and inserted a 6" strip to get the dimensions needed. Quilting commences soon!

Book Recommendations

Bear Town by Fredrik Backman evoked mixed reactions in me. This story is about a backwoods town that lives for ice hockey. The story revolves around the hockey club's general manager Peter, his wife Keira, 15 year-old daughter Mia, and 12 year-old son Leo. The junior hockey team, led by 17 year-old captain Kevin, is about to enter the semi-finals. An unexpected incident occurs that changes everything. Everyone from the bar owner to the grocery store owner has an opinion and a stake in the outcome, and they’re definitely not in agreement. 

I felt "gray" while reading this book because it was disturbing... while being thought-provoking. The author excels at story-telling, and the story is compelling - he achieved what an author should achieve - but the combination of hockey (a sport that doesn’t interest me) and the underlying message of sports “heros” getting away with things that shouldn’t be gotten away with, was illuminated so frankly that it saddened me to know about this dark side of team sports. Fredrik Backman deserves a 5.0 for the telling of this story, but for my enjoyment of it, I gave it a lower score. 

Linda's score: 3.8/5.0

The Good Wife by Eleanor Porter is a tale of laypeople and stewards, lords and ladies, and a little bit of magic. Martha is wife to a groomsman, Jacob. When he leaves on a two-month trip, Martha is left behind. As a former healer who escaped the gallows after being declared a witch (apparently this story was in the first book The Wheelright's Daughter, that I did not read), she heals the wound of the local steward and finds herself running from his advances. When Jacob doesn't come home, she sets off on a journey to find him, becoming a different person, meeting others on her travels, and relentlessly looking for Jacob. 

While the characters seem to be God-fearing people, they also believe in myths, legend, and charms. Also, I felt frustrated because I kept wanting to speak for Martha who didn't say the things I thought she should.
Linda's score: 3.0/5.0

Dan continues to outdo himself at pizza-making. Each one becomes "the best ever made." He has perfected his pizza crust, mixing the dough from scratch in the morning, refrigerating it, and later shaping it for baking. This pizza was heavy on pepperoni and cheese - yum! - but we were good, and ate salads first. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Zing Quilt

Zing, 41" X 46"

Can I just say that designing this quilt was w-a-y outside my comfort zone? It was, by far, the most challenging design project I've ever made. And that's saying a lot because I started hand-piecing my first quilt in 1976!

I certainly respect Maria Shell for her design sense and ability to create a beautiful creation. If you aren't familiar with her style, check out her blog: TalesofaStitcher. She's also a great instructor.

She asked each student to choose four favorite things, and use them as inspiration to create four interpretive designs to express them. This design method is very much outside my comfort zone. I spent countless hours stewing over fabrics - 30 different colored solids of mostly Painter's Palette solids;  units to piece (Maria calls them "bits"); and a few sketches (I don't sketch as much as she does); only to piece, arrange parts... and decide they weren't right. For me, creating a design means heaps of trial and error, with the error part in the form of un-sewing, and re-sewing. That definitely happened frequently! I cut into a large quantity of solid fabrics and have the scraps to show for it. 

All this began in a Zoom virtual workshop on Thursday evening, January 28, and subsequently occured on the following Sunday, Thursday, and Sunday, for a total of four three-hour workshops. 

In previous posts I've written about my process, and the angst I experience through it, so I won't repeat myself. 

After the top was finished, I pieced a backing from as many discarded chucks of pieced fabrics as possible. I'm frugal like that. 

Then, I pieced together the last two bits of Quilter's Dream Puff I own (I have since restocked with two king-sized batts from the local Sew Together shop that's now stocking Quilter's Dream batts) to make the quilt sandwich. I really like the loft of Puff, which is a 100 percent polyester batting. Puff makes quilting stand out.

Zing has lots of quilting! I had the crazy idea to custom quilt it. 

Using 50-weight Aurifil thread colors to coordinate with fabric colors (lots of thread color changes), it's walking foot quilted with my Bernina 770QE set at 3.20 stitch length, and free motion quilted. 

Quilting, from the back.

I used my favorite facing tutorial on WeAllSew to machine-sew a faced edge. 

Then I hand-stitched it into place. I really like the corner treatment with this facing method.

For me, a quilt isn't completely finished until it's been photographed from a branch of the Bismarck palm in our front yard. Hubs recently cut off the lower branches though (as a palm grows, lower limbs die and must be removed), so am now using a step ladder to get to the branch to hang the quilt!

Each quadrant represents an inspiration. Upper left: Iowa wind farm; upper right: my ukulele; lower left: our Bismarck palm; and lower right: a favorite song, "I'll Fly Away."

I'm really glad I had the opportunity to take this "Asymmetrical Symmetry" workshop because I learned a great deal about myself and my design process. For me, designing according to inspiration is difficult because I tend to be too literal. Also, I don't have the patience for sketching, and more sketching. I need to see components - their shapes and colors - alongside other components to determine if they look good, or not. I feel comfortable trusting my instincts and decisions about design, but it takes a lot of self-speak to work through it:
Let me try this.

Ugh, that doesn't look good.

But, maybe this will.

✂ Unsew - Cut - Resew 

Now how does that look?

Hmm. Maybe better. But what if I move this bit over here, and that bit over there?

That looks a little better, but those colors don't look good beside each other.

✂ Unsew - Cut - Resew

...and so on. You get the picture. Lots of starts and stutter-stops that make designing a long, and sometimes tiring process. But, because I like patterned improv so much, I know another such quilt is in my future.



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