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

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Summertime, and the Livin' is Easy

Not much new has been going on since my last post. Each day has an activity: line dancing, power walking, Zoom Bible study, Central Florida MQG, Big Cypress Quilter's, and oh... a quilter's pool party! That was fun. Seventeen of us shared a long hot afternoon eating hot dogs, mac 'n cheese, dishes everyone brought to share, and root beer floats, as all the while we were in and out of a gorgeous pool. 

A complimentary issue of Curated Quilts - this one with the theme "utility" - arrive last Friday.

I received it because my "Grandma's Scraps" quilt, made in the Kawandi-style using the challenge fabric (along the outside border) and vintage scraps, was selected to appear in the mini challenge section, in the back of the journal. 

I've previously had quilts selected for issues: Triangles; Stripes; Collaborate, and Youth  - and I can honestly say that the happiness of having a quilt in print doesn't diminish.

If you're interested in an annual subscription to Curated Quilts (no advertising, ever!), use this link to get a 10% discount.

Á la Amy Friend @duringquiettime from whom I learned (in a virtual workshop) Improv Paper Piecing, based on her book by the same name, I settled on an improv block design for a quilt. I used EQ8 to design the block that I'll sew into a modern quilt using only solids. After making several test blocks of various colors and sizes, I landed on an 8" square block in colors that are a big step out of my comfort zone: Sangria, Hot Pink, and Clementine for the background (Painter's Palette solids). 

I'm also using a new-to-me foundation paper piecing method with quilting freezer paper sheets purchased  here. I think I'm going to like this method! First, you don't need to shorten the sewing machine stitch length, and second, using my Bernina #10D (dual feed) edge stitch foot to glide along the freezer paper fold makes a perfectly straight line!

I went through all my threads to see what I could come up with for machine piecing, and machine and hand quilting. I was pleased to pull this assortment of Aurifil, Wonderfil, and DMC. Since I had enough Sangria and Hot Pink fabrics in my stash, I cut out all the pieces needed to make a 64" X 72" quilt. I'm awaiting delivery of five yards of Clementine so I can get started. 

Every evening I continue to slog away, hand quilting my Kantha quilt (I also took it to Big Cypress Quilters on Tuesday and got in three hours of stitching there). I sure don't know why stitching this seems endless. Maybe it's because I'm seeing more and more Kantha-makers showing their finishes. 

I still have a long way to go.

Today I counted, to find I've stitch 106 times along the 75" length of the quilt.

I have 84 more passes to make. 

In August 2013, we had our yard landscaped, and among other plants, this five foot-tall Bismarck palm was planted. The landscaper told us, "It's slow-growing." 

Ha! This is what it looks like today, not quite nine years later. We're guessing it's about 40 feet tall. as it's taller than the peak of our house, and hubs is no longer able to reach and cut off the lower palm fronds as they die. Since a Bismarck can get up to 60 to 70 feet tall, and it's already overpowering our small front yard, we've gotten an estimate to have it removed. Gulp.  

Though it's a perfectly healthy, gorgeous specimen of a Bismarck, the longer we wait the more it will cost to remove. So, September may be when it's taken out. I'm insisting on holding off through August because the fronds block the west sun on the roof in the late afternoon. My heart doesn't want to take it out, but my head is telling me we must. 
💔

Book RecommendationsWith the reading of The Return by Nicholas Sparks I've gone back to an "old" author whose first books I remember reading: The Notebook, and Message in a Bottle. Sparks hasn't changed his writing style, and can still touch the soft parts of a woman's heart. This charming story left me with that ooey-gooey feeling. Do you know what I mean? 

The Return is narrated by a man because the story is told from the perspective of Trevor Benson. He has returned to his deceased grandfather's home in New Bern (North Carolina) where he created many happy childhood memories, including learning bee-keeping. As he tends the bees, and gets the house fixed-up anticipating selling it, he reacquaints himself with the community. He also meets Natalie who works in the sheriff's department, and Callie, a teenager who often trudges past Trevor's house. As Trevor is adjusting to his life since being wounded in Afghanistan and considers what he'll do with himself now that he can no longer practice surgery, his interest in Natalie deepens. Though they both feel a connection, she's reticent about herself. What isn't she telling him? And why is Callie so angry, and defensive? 
Linda's score: 3.9/4.0 Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad is a difficult book to score. When a story is true, and sad, and makes you contemplate death, and how to live, it's not easy to say, "I enjoyed this." Still, I recommend it because it contains many profound insights. 

Suleika narrates the audiobook in a slow-speaking voice with an odd way of pronouncing words that contain the letter "t." Perhaps that comes from being multi-lingual with Arabic and French speaking parents. I found it a relaxing listen, in spite of the topic. I'll just come out and say it: while in her early twenties, Suleika is diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. It's a terrible, painful disease, that involves difficult treatments and side effects. Suleika takes the reader through it all. She also examines her emotions, and those of her parents and boyfriend. As difficult as her experience was (you know she survived because she's narrating it!) her insightfulness through the experience leads her to acceptance as she takes a cross-country trip to meet face-to-face with some of the people who wrote to her during the worst of her illness.

Unknown to me, Suleika wrote about her cancer experiences as she was going through them, for The New York Times, and also spoke on NPR. Hence the reason people knew her/wrote to her.  I followed-up on her whereabouts after finishing the book.

For the sheer intensity of her story, and for the timely coincidence of this book recommendation (just as an Iowa friend has recently died from the same disease: acute myeloid leukemia), I'm scoring it high. If nothing else, the book will remind you to appreciate good health and the life it allows you to live.

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0
Linda

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