Sunday, April 30, 2023

End of Month

A brief recap of April's doin's... 

I'm getting the hang of fabric yardage tracking in 2023, as I've worked out how to fairly accurately calculate the actual amount of fabric used (includes fabric seam allowances). 

Though I bought four yards of fabric to continue my Two-Step: Dancing With the Wall improv quilt (which I haven't worked on for two weeks), and backing for it, I still managed to use-up more yardage (right column: 11.16 yards) than I took in (left column: 9.43 yards). 

Most of the right side "use-up" column of the spreadsheet was spent making scrappy Harvest Moon-like blocks, and piecing a backing. 

Also, I counted ONE Posh Penelope block on the use-up side. 

Before getting too far into cutting out fabrics for 42 blocks needed for the Posh Penelope quilt, I thought I'd sew a test block to see if I cut correctly. I did. And I learned that this block needs undistracted attention to make precise Quick Curve Ruler cuts, and piecing. I think I'm gonna like the quilt.
Posh Penelope quilt block, 12" X 12" unfinished

Book Recommendation
Miss You
 by Kate Eberlen follows the lives of two British people - Tess and Gus - who first exchange a brief passing-by conversation while traveling in Italy. They each go their separate ways, Tess back to the UK where her mother dies and she must care for a younger sister with Asperberer's syndrome; and Gus returning to the UK to reluctantly follow his father's wishes to study and become a doctor.

Each of them makes choices in their jobs and love-lives, with a very occasional accidental encounter, though they're unaware.

Sixteen years later, another chance shared moment at a rock concert - she the person who faints; he the doctor - leads them to a brief connection, followed by another unexpected meeting in another country. 

While the storyline was pleasant enough (though I'm a prude when it comes to the carefree sex in this story) with an thought-provoking underlying theme about our possible encounters with a person who's our "meant-to-be" love, the story was slow-paced. 

Linda's score: 3.8/5.0 

During the month of April I listened to eight audiobooks. These four titles received my top scores of 4.0 or more:
  1. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
  2. Thank You for Listening by Julia Whalen
  3. If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
  4. The Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain
Jody, a local friend who's in my Wednesday morning Zoom Bible study of The Chosen, recently shared the picture below. It's a great visual about our sometimes-inability to know how or what to pray for.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for: But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words. Romans 8:26
Live blessedly, Linda

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Cutting Up

Cutting continues to be my latest quiltmaking craze. Besides the scrappy quilt top I just finished, I've been aggressively cutting out pieces - from my scrap bins (when possible) and stash - for two other quilts.

In May I'm going on a three-day quilt retreat with members of Central Florida MQG, so preparing piecing projects is my objective. Things to work on during a retreat don't include free motion quilting, nor my Dancing With the Wall improv quilt - both would be impossible to do without the perfect design wall and table set-up.

I've cut up enough bits to make 340 - 3½" X 3½" (finished) blocks for a scrappy Unallocated quilt. The free guide for making these blocks - see my three blocks on the right - is on Instagram from @mckillopmichele

I've spent many hours cutting out pieces for a Posh Penelope quilt, a pattern from Sew Kind of Wonderful.  

It's been good to revisit my stash to select fabrics, and even better, to use my print stash. I haven't finished cutting yet.

Seeing the off-cuts pile grow though, has been quite satisfying, and great for stuffing that pet bed bag!

On April 18, Big Cypress Quilters had a "Spring Fling" party - an occasion for members to "wear pearls, carry a pocketbook," and attend an afternoon tea. When I arrived, I was greeted by several friends who had been at a Big Cypress Mini-Retreat, and thought of me... handing me a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag of tiny triangle scraps they'd cut while trimming quilt blocks. While I normally would have tossed them into a pet bed bag, I decided to show them what could be made.

This 7" X 9" mug rug is pieced with 80 half-square triangle blocks. 

I randomly arranged and joined them together. Each little finished block is ¾" square! After sharing this at Tuesday's Big Cypress Quilters Show and Tell - explaining to my friends that I'd be happy to teach them how to use their scraps! - I gave the mug rug to Flo, the quilter whose quilt blocks generated these cast-offs. It was a fun make, but something I don't want to repeat any time soon!
Mug Rug, 7" X 9"

April 15-16 was the Broward Quilt Expo in Pembroke Pines, Florida. I entered my Tilted Tiles quilt in the Modern, Large Quilt category. Three friends, all in the South Florida MQG, sent me pictures of my quilt! Thank you, Marie @marie4nier, Sherry @otterbeequilting, and Maureen @maydecemberquilts. Tilted Tiles hung to the right of a quilt made by the South Florida MQG president, Cathy Wilson @cwi1s0ncot

Lighting was such that my quilting shows up here much better than any pictures I've taken. I domestic machine quilted, and then added big stitch hand quilting. 

No award for me (prizes are cash!), but a judge's review is always interesting. I guess Judge Beverly Fine didn't care too much for my fabric color choices, giving them, as well scale/proportion (?), and quilting motifs only "Good." Happily, quilting and finishing received "Outstandings."  

Over my many decades of quiltmaking, and entering hundreds of quilts in shows, I've learned not to take a judge's comments too seriously. Even though I know they're trained to judge quilts, I think subjectivity comes into play more than they like to admit. As well, more recently, I'm observing that judges can have a less-than-complete understanding of "modern."

Hopefully, the new, updated definition of modern, that was just released by the MQG on Monday will help everyone understand it better. Link here. I was on the MQG committee that, last fall, provided input for the update and changes. I'm pleased with this new definition. 

Book Recommendations
The Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes
 by Diane Chamberlain was one of those page-turner books - if I had read the print version! I listened practically non-stop.

Cee Cee is only 15, and still misses her mother who died at age 29. Cee Cee lives in Raleigh, is honest and hard-working, and waitressing to save money, hoping to attend college. She meets a handsome grad student Tim, who wants to be a social worker involved in prison reform. When he tells her his sister is on death row, and he wants to get her out, Cee Cee reluctantly gets involved in his plan - one that doesn't go as planned and changes the course of her life. 

Now on the run with a baby that isn't her own, Cee Cee must adopt a new identity and new life. As time goes on, she follows her dream of attending college. She falls in love and is part of a family. Her past is in the past and she's grateful for her life. However, decades later, when the news begins to uncover what really happened long ago, she's forced again to face the mistakes of her 15 year-old self. She must tell the truth to save a life. But at what cost? Will she receive forgiveness that she knows she doesn't deserve? 

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

This is my favorite aqua chair - a swivel rocker-glider - that I use daily. It was bought and delivered in February 2020, just in time for using during months of stay-at-home days.

I'm sharing this "after" photo since washing the seat, back, and chair coverings in the washing machine! Yep. That's the reason I bought this Four Seasons brand of furniture... because all their furniture pieces are designed with coverings that can either be washed or dry cleaned, or easily replaced. What a good concept, especially for Florida homeowners who rent-out their homes and want different furniture coverings for themselves, and their renters. Before washing, the arms and cushion front looked discolored, so I couldn't be more pleased with how clean it all looks - nearly like new.

This is my favorite place for the occasional phone call, devotion time, and Zoom Bible studyZoom with women from Lutheran Church of Hope (West Des Moines, Iowa). We're using a study guide to watch (for free) and discuss season 2 of The Chosen. I'm learning more about Jesus - how real and special He is. I highly recommend watching The Chosen, if you haven't already.  Linda

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Scarping is Done; Improv has Begun

Tah-dah! It's a quilt top - 72" X 86". Since my March 17 blog post, I've been scarping my scrap bins to make fabric that I cut into these Harvest Moon and yin-Yang blocks (my name for them) to make a total of 50 ten-inch (finished) blocks. 

Every convex and concave section was created with mumbo-jumbo pieced fabric, using-up as many small pieces as possible. Indeed, there are lots of seams in this quilt. 

If, after cutting-up a scrap, and even a 1½" square scrap remained, it was cut for my leaders-enders basket. The remaining littlest bits were tossed into a pre-made bag that will become a pet bed. 

Yesterday I cut setting triangles from black and white striped fabric - a Moda Essentials stripe purchased at QuiltCon - and pieced the top. 

As proof of the success of this "scarping my scraps" effort, below are the four scrap bins I worked from. Each had been full to the top with scraps.

Before, this first bin needed to be pushed down to fit into its cubby. The bin is labeled Neutrals/Yellow. Still it remains the bin with the most fabric scraps, not only neutrals and yellows, but also grays, and black and white prints. 

This Brights bin contains only multi-colored prints, many of which were not used in the Harvest Moon quilt top. Pressing scraps, and then cutting pieces to make an Unallocated quilt (free design by @mckillopmichelle) had more to do with this bin's reduction. 

This is the Green/Blue bin with aqua in there too.

This Orange/Red/Purple bin also has pink scraps.

Did you notice how short the piles are?! I am certainly pleased with the success of this scarping effort! 

Since last weekend's Two-Step: Dancing With the Wall virtual workshop with Irene Roderick @hixonir (in Austin, Texas), that's the project I most want to work on!

This workshop was fantastic! What Irene taught me about improv is invaluable!

I learned that improv is a technique that's truly "all about me." How do I feel about a shape? What do I like about a component? What do think about how components look together? What do I want it to look like? How does the design make me feel?
Saturday, April 15

The most valuable lesson was to recognize that I must not plan ahead! It was challenging for some of the students to grasp that notion. We're so accustomed to thinking ahead:
"I'll put this component here, then make another one for over there, and maybe another one here in this color, and..."
That's exactly what not to do when creating improv. I must design as I go. Let what I see on my design wall dictate what comes next. This is not an easy thing to do!
Sunday, April 16

Since the workshop, I've learned I can't simply sit down for an evening - three or four hours - to create, sew, and design. It's much too draining. Instead, I will work on it for an hour or two before "letting it rest," give myself time away, and then come back later with fresh eyes.
Monday, April 17

At the end of each four-hour workshop, each person's work was spotlighted. We learned from Irene NOT to comment about what we were "seeing" in each piece. Don't say:
"That looks like handcuffs." 
"That looks like a Martian." 
"I see a woman's profile."

... as I did. 😔 (My apologies to my classmates.)

Keep your thoughts to yourself! The reason is that when you make such a comment to the creator, the creator will not be able to UNSEE what you've suggested... and the result is that your comment may make the creator dislike their design. 

Except for a positive comment about a particular component, keep your thoughts to yourself. 😊
Tuesday, April 18

Another realization... not one of the 17 of us is making a two-color quilt that looks like someone else's two-color quilt. I love that!

Because I always like to "go big" with my quilts, this will take more-than-usual "cooking time." As well, I've had to order two more yards each of my two fabrics - Painter's Palette Sachet (light lavender) and Patriot.

In any case, if you have a modicum of interest in improv, check out these Instagram hashtags suggested by Irene: #quiltdance #dancingwiththewall #contemporaryquilt

I also highly recommend taking a workshop with Irene. She encourages you to be you.

Book Recommendations
Thank You for Listening
 by Julia Whelan is an enjoyable book, read by the author herself. The story provides an inside look into the world of an audiobook narrator. As this book points out, and as I've learned myself from listening to several hundred audiobooks over the last three years, the best narrators are actors.

That's the case with Sewanee Chester whose dream had been to act. However, a disfiguring accident sent her on a different path. She's now go-fer for her friend who owns a studio recording business where Sewanee herself records books under a pseudonym. However, Suwannee has sworn off narrating romance novels.

When she's asked to narrate a romance novel - the last one written by a famous romance novel-writer - with the mysterious narrator Brock McNight, she can't say no. The income is too good, and Sewanee needs the money to pay for her grandmother's nursing home care.

If you listen to this, be sure to also listen to Julia Whelan's author's notes at the end. There she explains how the characters came to be, and writing during the pandemic,  

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

A Flicker in the Dark
 is Stacy Willingham's debut novel, and it's good.

Chloe was 12 when her father was convicted of the serial murders of a half-dozen teenaged girls in their small Louisiana town. Now she's living in Baton Rouge, a doctor with a physiology practice, and engaged to Daniel, in pharmaceutical sales. 

She's feeling anxiety as the 20th anniversary of her father's imprisonment approaches, as well as needing to make wedding plans, and visit her mother who's been in nursing home for years. As Chloe is going through self-analyzes, she's contacted by a New York Times reporter who's writing an article about what happened 20 years ago. In the meantime, a Baton Rouge teen has gone missing. Between the reporter's questions and this new threat, Chloe resurrects her 20 year-old feelings - guilt for the girls' deaths, and for being the person who turned in her father. 

This is one of those books begging you to guess "who did it?" I think I'm becoming jaded because I pegged the person within the first few chapters. Maybe I should be writing these types of stories! Ha!

Linda's score: 3.9/5.0 

Four days ago our front yard 25 foot-tall Bismarck was removed. (Previous blog post is a tribute to the palm.)  It will be a long time until we get over seeing this emptiness. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Tribute to a Special Bismarck Palm

We moved to Florida from Iowa on June 23, 2012. On August 17, 2013 we hired landscapers to re-plant around the house, and - being a big fan of palms - chose a Bismarck palm for our front yard. 

April 17, 2023 saw the demise of that now-25'-tall palm. This post is a tribute to the Bismarck - its beauty, and the happiness it gave us, our neighbors, and friends. 
August 17, 2013

Five feet tall, and newly-planted in the center of our front yard. The bay window is my sewing room.
August 17, 2013

A European Fan palm was planted nearer the house, on the right side of this photo.

Early-on, the Bismarck became a place for a couple of quilt photos. This is the Florida quilt block I designed for American Made Brand (fabric) that was included in a 50-state quilt AMB display whenever they had a booth in a quilt show.
June 5, 2014

June 27, 2015

December 26, 2016

In February/March 2017, my Australian friend Di visited for a month. She posed in front of the Bismarck wearing her lovely, self-made selvages skirt. 
March 2017

Di and I spent a month sight-seeing together, One of many places we visited was the Henry P. Leu Gardens, a botanical park in Winter Garden, Florida. I vividly remember the two of us being astonished to see the size of this Bismarck palm in the garden. I couldn't imagine our Bismarck ever getting that tall!

Di with a Bismarck at Leu Gardens, March 2017

June 23, 2017

September 11, 2017

June 23, 2018

June 23, 2018

June 23, 2019

October 19, 2019

Early into the pandemic, the shade of the palm was a nice place to hang out. 
March 30, 2020

Late one afternoon, the west sun brilliantly shown through the palm fronds. The following two photos are my favorites.
Memorial Day Weekend, May 2020

Simply gorgeous! It wasn't unusual to see passers-by posing for a picture by our Bismarck. It was that striking. 
Memorial Day weekend, May 28, 2020

From 2020 to 2021, the Bismarck was the perfect spot from which to hang a finished quilt for picture-taking. These are only a few of the many quilt photos taken with the Bismarck.
March 23, 2020

June 20, 2020

July 11, 2020

July 21, 2020

November 24, 2020

January 2, 2021

March 12, 2021

April 17, 2021

March 16, 2021

When it reached this size, it became difficult for Dan to trim the tree himself. Even with our ladder and a saw, it was hard to reach branches that needed cutting off. 
October 21, 2021

July 14, 2022

Just last year we hired, for the first time, a professional tree-trimmer to do the trimming for us. 
July 30, 2022

It was looking great by the time he'd finished. 
July 30, 2022

This was the view from my sewing room rocker. 
August 2022

Then... everything changed. It was either Hurricane Ian in September 2022 or Hurricane Nicole in November 2022 that caused the wind twist that prompted the Bismarck's demise. 
Hurricane Ian, September 2022

Hurricane Nicole, November 2022

By February/March this year, it became more apparent that the center growth spike wasn't visible. No new growth occurred because hurricane winds twisted the growth spike one way - and then as the winds passed, twisted the growth spike the other way... and broke it. Rot travelled through the trunk. 
No growth spike in the center, March 2023

Tree removal day... April 17, 2023. The Bismarck is 25' tall. 

Fronds were removed first. 

Then the top section was sawed off, with the workmen tugging a rope around it to topple it to the ground.

Rot was visible through the core of the top section. 

In sections, the trunk was cut and knocked down. 

Rot appears as a dark ring, on the right side of the stump. 

Debris filled the trailer, and smelled bad. Rotting palm stinks!

The following day, the team returned to grind out the stump using this Kubota to drive the grinder. 

The stump needed to be cleaned out and reground, several times, to get it all. 

This is all that remains, and it will be covered with sod. 

We took quite a journey with that palm, realizing too-late that it would grow too big for our small front yard. And, since palms grow in Florida - this is a tropical climate, after all - we don't plan to plant another. 

Though I'll still keep the picture of Bismarck fronds on this blog header, I won't again use the Instagram hashtag #quiltinabismarckpalm

It was a good run - nine years and eight months. 😢 Linda


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