Monday, January 31, 2011

Ferns & the saint

I was mostly just looking to see who there might be around February 14th who was not Saint Valentine & what caught my eye was the man of today: Aedan of Ferns.  Ferns.  In January.

Okay, ferns it is.  Also, Aedan meets so many of my favorite saint requirements.  Very little documentation (or so I thought). Died of natural causes.  Hermit, although it turns out he founded 30 or so churches; I just love the project management hermits, don't you?

First it turns out not to be ferns but Ferns, a cathedral, diocese & all-round happening place in greater Dublin.  Naturally Aedan of Ferns is the patron saint of Ferns.  But before he was Aedan of Ferns he was Aedan, son of tribal chieftans.  Then he was Aedan, local guy with reputation for "sanctity".  I put that in quotes because that is the word the calendar uses:  sanctity.   Before sanctity was a metal band, it meant having the quality of being holy.  I am always curious how a person goes about exhibiting this quality to such a degree that he gets a reputation, but alas that is barely covered.  The only thing I could find was that he founded all those churches as he had to keep get away from his followers.  Which in my book does make him a little bit holy.  The first one is in his birthplace, the last one in Ferns, where he died on January 31, 632.

Mostly Aedan seems to have had the ordinary saint/chieftain's son life.  He was a student/hostage to a local king.  He got a reputation for being holy.  & there is a back-story that his family could not take him to be baptized as an infant because of rising water & he magically floated across the water.  It didn't say but I am guessing he floated back once it was over.  Or maybe that is how he came to be a hostage.

That's it except more detail on the career, church-founding stuff.  Aedan of Ferns gave us Ferns (& a slew of other churches) & more recently the name Aidan, which has been in the top 100 for almost 10 years now, although I think Sex In the City might have just as much to do with that as our man of the day.  Also Aidan Quinn probably didn't hurt.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In which everything old is new again

I thought I was done posting for the month & then....& then:

the fruit bats at Dove World are trying to make headlines again.  All that publicity last year & they still did not unload the merchandise they hoped to.   I remember reading about cow being tried for witchcraft in 18th century France.  Dove World would love to put something living in the mix & burn it alive, I am sure, but the local constabulary are all out of patience with Jones et al.  Thankfully the inter-webs gives us full & free access to their whole agenda.  The only thing that cheers me about this is the typo in the title of their own event.

bring your guns to school day is working its way to reality, if unofficially.  A week ago I listed three gun related good times already on the record here in Fladidah schools.  Since then we have had a pre-school.  The short version is the five year old found the gun in his step-fathers vehicle.  He made this claim after it fell out of his pocket during music class.  These are hardly the only armed incidents so far this year, they are just the only ones involving schools.  For those of you keeping score, we are averaging one a week.

In other local news this week:  a man died last night when he drove into (& killed) three horses in the dark; the horses had broken loose from their paddock & were not visible on the unlit state road.  Two different babies in two different towns are dead because two different adults rolled over & suffocated them while sleeping.  A drunk driver was arrested before he did any damage on the road when the people working the drive thru at the Taco Bell he was patronizing called the police & then discovered a child asleep on the back seat .  There is good news to (I suppose the Taco Bell story was good news, kinda):  a local rapist was identified via his FaceBook photos & has been arrested.  A pilot landed a small plane safely after deploying the parachute in his plane, for his plane.  The family of the officer shot & killed in the line of duty earlier this week expect to be keeping his K-9 partner.  I guess the good news is a little thin.

So I went out the back gate, into the fog & watched the sunrise over the horse gate between our back pasture & W*****'s.  Then I took this picture.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Salty goodness

First let me clarify, I started writing this way before the government banned bath salts on the off chance someone might snort them & get high.  or not get high.  & may I say Thank G*D we are all protected from bath salt abusers, but I for one won't feel safe until I can legally bring my gun to school.  Yes, I am still harping on that one.

Starting again with the way I meant to start:  over the past couple week-ends I have been taking a soap making class, mostly as a refresher because I have made soap, but not for a few uhm years & wanted to see it one more time in person.

The good news is, the new ban doesn't matter one iota if what you really want is to take a bath with bath salts.  You can make them yourself & it is not nearly the headache (literally headache if you hang your head over the lye-water mix) of making your own soap.  Making bath salts is easy & safe, you can do it with younger children even.  The kids just need to be old enough to keep their hands out of their eyes & nose; mommies out there will have to make that call themselves what age that might be.

You can google your brains out looking for recipes, or you can go straight here.  Or you can go to your local public library & look under Dewey Decimal number 668, 668.12, 668.124 or even 668.5. There are so many recipes & they are so hard to mess up, I am not even going to bother putting one here.  I offer only the variation that you can put everything together in a bowl, mix it best as you can & then seal it in a larger container & put it away.  Whenever you open that particular cupboard or closet or drawer, give it a shake, turn it upside down & walk away.  Everything will get & stay plenty blended.

& finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not make, or at least not alone, any of the salts in the picture.  They are mine, I didn't steal them or anything, but they were made en masse in the workshop & so added to them was the one ingredient I never ever use:  color.  I like color, I'm just not that committed to matchy-matchy toiletries.  On the other hand, my salts are in an old milk jug & are just plain old salt colored; they don't look like anything at all in a photograph. 

As for how they worked, you will have to ask M******.  I mentioned I had scented bath slats to unload & she volunteered.  Now that  look at the picture I can see there are doggy nose prints all around them.  Did I mention they are highly fragranced as well?  Also not really my thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cold morning, warm feet

It was 52F in my house when I woke up a couple Friday's ago morning.  It was so cold outside (I think 27F is cold) that our heater had not been able to keep up.  I turned the heater off as it was blowing not-warm-enough air anyhow & am waiting for the sun to get that far & warm up the works.  Since I turned it off it got to 54F, which began to worry me.  & if you guessed the heat pump was dead, you would be almost right.  The good news is I have HVAC husbands & handyman boyfriends on almost-speed-dial (not my husband...or boyfriend, that guy tiptoed out after pushing little dogs under the covers to keep me warm) & later that same day I had a guy out dealing with it & around 10pm he came back a replaced the dead part. 

Anyone who cares to know (& I would certainly understand if you did not) knows that Fladidah has been having some cold, cold, cold weather.  It snowed here Christmas day, just flurries but still not the norm for 29degrees North.  This is roughly where Houston, Texas lies & just a shave north of Delhi, India.  Snow is hardly the norm.

But we are transplants here, directly from Houston but before that New England.  & before I was a quilter, I was a knitter.  & before handknit socks were all the rage, I knit them...out of worsted.

The short version is A cannot sleep if his feet are cold.  I know, weird right?  & he used to attend an annual conference in ski country, which was fine (he likes to ski & rarely gets the chance living in the USsouth with a non-skiing wife).  But at night, his feet were cold & the hotel had that weird discomfort=character thing that keeps me from traveling with him.

& so I made these, garden variety top-down socks, on US7 needles with the standard K1P1 rib.  I find it is easier to see the heel I am turning if it is in a different color, ditto the toe I am decreasing & just to make it look finished, I began with the first ?4? rows in that same contrasting color.

I know, I know it is hard to see the individual stitches.  This is not because the pictures are blurry so much as the socks have felted a bit over the last 18+ years.  Yes, you read that right, these socks were knit sometime before between 1991 & 1994.  It is true they get worn maybe three or four weeks a year & that's it, but for those weeks he might wear them almost every other day & that is plenty of washes & they have held up just fine. 

& that's it, that's all I've got.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Block Lotto: stacked coins

I spent a goodly amount of last summer pressed up against the glass over at the Block Lotto.  I kept telling myself I didn't have time (& I didn't) & I had enough quilt block swapping (& I had) but then...but then....

But then last September they did liberated house blocks.  Right when we were doing Funky Town.  & so I asked to join.

Next thing you know, my time went to hell.  Even those who only know me from reading this blog can see I went from ten-ish posts per month to two, maybe three.  I did nothing except claw my way from one day to the next & there really was no extra time for extra block swaps.  As a result I missed out on funky stars & funky trees

I am feeling much more myself (& for anyone who gets spread too thin over everyday unhappiness I strongly recommend a good medicinal dose of O'ahu) & once I got my own quilt block swap responsibilities caught up, I flipped to the Block Lotto & found January, a very colorful twist on Stacking Coins (or Chinese Coins  or whatever you want to call them).  Their directions are clear as day here along with a teaser for February about strings, specifically Sort & Save Your Strings.  So February looks to be a string fling!

I spent a happy day yesterday in my sewing room (which is almost certainly not falling into a sinkhole after all, but much more likely the clay underneath is shrinking because of the decade of drought & it is unlikely to drop more than three feet or so, isn't that good news?) going through colorful fabrics & making stacks of offset coins.  Very satisfying.  & yes, this one is in the hopper for a future Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group swap block. 

In the end I had several blocks all finished & photographed, but this one was my favorite.

Oh, another dead giveaway I was going to have to jump into the Block Lotto: I kept catching myself sing-saying Block Lotto over & over again in Rock Lobster voices.  I dare you to resist.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This week in the right to bear arms

I avoided talking about the shooting in Tucson because my opinion was so very very predictable I figured why fill space with that noise, right?  & so let me assure you that aside from that sentence just then, my chatter re: Tucson ends now.

Which brings us to much more pedestrian/garden variety/everyday joe gun fun here in Fladidah.  I could open with the guy last month who opened fire on a school board meeting, but I thought I would try to limit myself to just 2011.  We opened with a news item regarding the shooting surrounding FSU.  No not the old shooting, the new shooting.  The short version on this one: Ashley Cowie died because a guy who had experience with hunting rifles, etc. was showing a "new accessory"" to some friends.  Hey that's the kind of thing that could happen to anyone, right?  Anyone who brought a loaded rifle to a fraternity gathering & started showing off that is.  & if one random person has to die, well such is life.  Or death.

Of course, a second life is also as good as over: the shooter, remember the shooter?  Exorcising his Constitutionally protected right to bear arms, he accidentally killed someone which means he gets charged with manslaughter.  That means five or so in with career criminal types who have not actually been convicted for killing anyone.  Anyhow, we opened the week with more stories about what an upstanding citizen he is & how it is a damn shame this happened.  I'm sure he will be just as good a guy when he gets out.

Next we had the gun in the backpack.  No, not the one that the kids dropped on a desk & shot two of his classmates, that was in Los Angeles.  Here at home, our local PD is hosting two kids from an adjacent county who brought a gun & a knife to school  Everyone thinks it is important to stress that the kids just had them.  There is no clue they were bullies or being bullied or any sign that they were planning a school shooting.  School just seemed like a good place for one to hand-off the gun, removed from a parent's closet, to the other.  Well that's a relief, isn't it?

Finally there is the bill introduced to allow guns to be carried on Fladidah campuses, legally that is.  When is that ever not a good idea.  As the wife of a physics professor (the secondary education gunmans' favorite target), maybe I have a kind of skewed perspective.  I know, I know, if people keep aiming at physics professors, they must deserve it on some level.  After all, the classes they teach are hard &, if you are pre-med or an engineer, required.  & it turns out the laws of physics aren't like, say the laws of poetry (my own area of study) & there really is a right answer.  Like I said, hard.

Of course, our campus has the extra party that comes with all those football fans.  The locals get fringe benefits out the drunk & disorderly visitors (those fines add up), but I'm not sure they'll be so gung-ho about arming them.  Especially as they barely want the campus police armed after that whole shot a guy in the head because same guy -unarmed- threaten to kill himself.  Nothing says don't kill yourself like a bullet in the brain.

Naturally A himself has a point of view on this whole "bring your gun to campus" thing.  He mused that perhaps he WOULD start bringing a loaded gun to school, maybe leave it there, in plain view, while he teaches or even during office hours & exams.  Sure it will probably make it hard for students to concentrate with the muzzle pointing across the desk, but since when has what happens in the classroom been about them?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Force: to compel, constrain or oblige

At the end of last year, V** gave me a gift of narcissus bulbs & a tall, narrow pot with planting material.  For the first time in years, I am forcing.

When we lived in New Joisey, I covered our dining room window & patio doors with plants- anything to obscure the parking lot & the scenic overlook of Route 46.  In winter, I scoured the garden section of the hardware stores for bulbs of any kind to add any kind of color to the truly colorless, slushy view.

Forcing bulbs is no complex art, but it does require at least some cold.  I think this is why I got out of the habit when we moved to Texas.  I could hardly remember to put the bulbs in the refrigerator & on the rare occasion I remembered that step, I could not seem to remember to take them out again.  By the time I rediscovered them, they had sprouted, dried & died.  Also, there was the reality that no matter how polluted it is, being in the tropics gives Houston the illusion of healthy greenery.  The winter months were not the same gray.

Winter is not such a gray affair here either.  Still when we got home last month, I immediately opened up the kit & was pleased to see the bulbs were already pushing bleached white stems, even in the complete dark of the packaging.  I planted them fast,  covered them during the day for the first week or so to give the roots some catch up time & now every day is a new stage.  The rest of winter is likely to be mostly-mild enough that I can get another set chilled just sitting a week or so in the garage & will not have to be without flowers for the next few months.

I forgot how much I liked them.  When we walk in&out the back door, they have just enough scent to be pleasant.  The flowers are delicate & clean & best of all, they have a natural sparkle:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Massachusetts Star in June 2011

As I have said in a previous posts, I am trying to progress through the three block swaps for this corner from beginner, a bit more advanced, & then truly advanced.  For the third, most advanced block we will be making the Massachusetts Star, which was actually requested last year, but I could not get the directions photographed etc. in time. This block will be 12" finished/12." unfinished. 

Below are the directions with photos for making the block, including the 1/2-square & 1/4-square triangles that make up much of the 9-patch.  You could also follow the directions from the link above.  They are slightly different but will give you a block of the same dimensions.

To make your block you will need two fabrics:

Fabric A can be red or red&white or red&white&blue or blue or blue&white.  In my photos it is pale blue with white polka-dots.

Fabric B should be either reads-as-solid blue or reads-as-solid white or reads as solid black.  I choose black with a black ribbon pattern.

For each block, from each fabric, please cut:

1 - 4.5" square
2 - 5" squares (these will make the 1/2-square triangles)
2 - 5.5" squares (these will make the 1/4-square triangles)

With a pen or pencil, mark a straight line from one corner to the opposite corner on two of the 5" squares (inevitably, it will be easier to see this mark on one fabric than the other; you only need mark the easier/lighter fabric).  Do the same with the 5.5" squares & then, with the 5.5" squares only, draw a second line connecting the other two corners.  Do NOT mark the 4.5" square, just set both of them aside.  

To make the 1/2-square triangles take one 5" square of each fabric, put the right side together, stitch 1/4" from the center line on either side of the line.  This is the same technique used in the April 2010 block & explained here.  Cut right along the line in the center, press open, trim to 4.5" & set aside with the other 4.5" squares.  Do the same with the second square from each of the two colors.  You will need three (3) 1/2-square triangles to make the complete block.

To make the 1/4-square triangles you will begin the same way.  Take one 5.5" square from each fabric.  Put them right sides together, sew down either side of one of the center lines you have marked connecting the opposite corners, cut them apart, press & then trim to 5" square.  A clear how-to is online here.

On the back of each of these, there will be a line from one corner to the center of the block.  Connect this line with the opposite corner.  Then take another one of the newly-made 5" 1/2-square triangle blocks & put it up against the first, right sides together.  The center seams of both should lock together, holding the part that is fabric A in one block to the part that is fabric B in the other.  Stitch down either side of the center line, cut them apart & press.  You should have four (4) 1/4-square triangle blocks that are 4.5" square.  You will need all four of them. 

Once all the smaller pieces are made, the Massachusetts Star is really just a 9-patch.  Layout the three 1/2-square triangles, 4 1/4-square triangles & 2 4.5" squares as below.  Stitch each row together, being sure to press every row in opposite directions so you can lock your seams (otherwise you will have great mounds in the seam allowance) & then assemble the rows.

Four blocks could make a center star, that can be bordered as you like OR twelve blocks will make an ornate border around a 24" medallion that could be appliqued.  The fabrics were chosen with the upcoming holiday in mind or perhaps a Quilt of Valor, if you felt so inclined.

Blocks are due Saturday June 25th, they will be swapped June 26th & will go back in the mail that Monday, June 27, 2011.  As always, we swap in sets of five, so you would make six blocks (keep one for yourself) send five & get five back in the self-addressed, stamped envelope you included with your five swap blocks.

Log cabin in the springtime for April 2011

For our second block swap this year, I choose an oldie but goodie.  This is often the first quilt block people learn, probably because it is simple enough for a beginner but has a lot of potential when it comes to laying out the quilt top itself.  I am talking of course about the log cabin block.

To make the swap block you will need five (5) fabrics, in 2.5" strips (the reason for this dimension is so you can use up any jelly roll scraps you might have lying around), the result will be the biggest block we have ever made, but it is still beginner friendly.  One side of the log cabin should be three different fabrics, at least one of which should have a "nature" theme, a leaf pattern or vine, something like that.  The other side should read-as-solid & should be either clearly a light color or clearly a dark.  In my examples the light is yellow & the dark is a dark brown.  The center square should always be red.

I would suggest you make this block Eleanor Burns style, starting with the center & bordering two sides with the second fabric choice & the next two sides with the solid.  You will keep wrapping the 2.5" strips in this way until you have a total three turns around the center square & should be 14.5" square.

1- Begin with a 2.5" square of RED fabric.  This is the traditional color of the center of a log cabin block & your first fabric.  You will not need anymore of this fabric, so an 8x8 inch square would be more than enough for all six blocks. 

2-Add a 2.5" square in the second fabric to one side & then a 2.5" x 4.5" strip of the same fabric to an adjacent side, making a larger complete square.

3-With the third fabric (which you will use for 1/2 the log of the log cabin block), add a 2.5" strip to the next side & then the next.  I find the easiest way is to decide to turn the blocks either clockwise or counter clockwise as I piece & then stick with it.

4-Using the second fabric again, you will complete the next two sides.

5-With the fourth fabric, complete the first two sides of the outer edge.

6-Using the second, solid fabric complete the round & complete the block.

Your log cabin block, just to be clear, begins with a center square that is red.  You will need three different fabrics that will comprise one half of the block, one turn each, at least one of which should have leaf or vine or woodsy type pattern, & then the other half of the block will be a fifth fabric that should read-as-solid & should be either obviously lighter than all the others OR obviously darker than all the others.  All the units begin as a 2.5" strip; the first seam connects a 2.5" red square to another 2.5" square.After that you are adding 2.5" strips to each new side, cutting them & pressing them & then adding the next strip.

These blocks are due the last Saturday in April, April 30 2011.  They will be swapped Sunday, May 1 & sent back in the envelope you provide Monday, May 2, 2011.

Cutting corners for kids for February 2011

I was tempted to call this one Kutting Korners for Kids but I could not face the people in my life who would - without a doubt- write "Kute" as a comment (Komment?), so I resisted.  But I still told you about it.

In October 2010 we had our first liberated block & I was really truly not sure how that would go.  It was popular enough that we are doing another liberated block, but this time I am hoping to attract people new to liberated quilting or even just plain new to quilting; this block is without a doubt the easiest block we have ever made.  I swear.  There are no corners to match, not within the block or as the blocks get put together, & there are only two seams per block.  The fabric requirements are also just about as easy as it gets.

Each block begins with one 6.5" inch square.  You will also need two scraps of about 3" square, or not even square (smaller can work, it just depends on how your piece is shaped & how you angle it).  In the photos, the large square is a bright print; a large scale novelty or anything bright & busy would work.  The other two pieces "read as solid" although they are not solid & for the best effect, they should be clearly visible against the block fabric.  The two smaller pieces do not have to be the same size/shape, in fact it is likely they will not be, although they do need to be the same fabric.  If it suits your scrap bag better,  you could cut the large 6.5" square something solid-ish & plain & the two scrap pieces from the same novelty/bright & busy material. 

Take your larger square, right side up & put one of the other pieces, wrong side up (right sides facing)  with the side you will stitch diagonal across the corner so that when stitched & pressed it will turn right-side-up & cover the corner.  This easier to picture than read.

Do the same to the opposite corner.  You're already almost done.  All that is left it to iron the piece flat & re-square the edges back to 6.5".  That's it, that's the whole block.  The only real trick is to make sure there is enough of the corner fabrics for it not to get swallowed up in the seam allowance & believe me, 3" is more than enough.  It is more a guideline really.

That's it, the whole megillah.  Foundation piecers will recognize the flip&cover thing, but even if you have never foundation pieced, you can handle this.  In fact, if you enjoy yourself, you might want to give a foundation pieced block a try.   Please do your best to stay between 1.5" & 2.5" up each edge when make your diagonal seam (otherwise you run the risk of your colorful corner being lost in the seam allowance or your large block becoming more like a center stripe).

Because the corner scraps are almost certainly going to expose some bias edges, please handle your blocks carefully.  If you avoid cutting the original square away until you are actually putting the blocks together into a quilt, they edges will remain much more stable as well.

We are making kids blocks (hence the bright, brighter, brightest look to the fabrics), but Gwen Marston famously made this very block, many times over in red&white (an image I could not locate) which inspired this white squares with colored corners, which I copied outright for myself, cutting up A LOT of plain white muslin into squares & then blowing thru my scrap bag at top speed.

Some of you will notice that the busy-ness of the large-square fabric or the corner fabric might make it hard to butt these up against each other as in the Marston original & the inspiration results.  & yes, I can see that too.  Keep in mind we swap in sets of five, so one swapper would sit there with six different blocks (five swapped & one of her own).  Staggering these with plain old muslin 6.5" squares, with or without the corner treatment would calm the whole thing down & give you a 3square by 4square top.  With a nice wide border or two, you could eke out enough for a small baby quilt.  Also, these blocks really are so simple & so fast (& use up scrap fabric that might otherwise be tossed for being a stoopid shape), you could swap more than one set & start growing that into a nap size or even a twin.

Blocks are due the last Saturday of February, 2/28/2011 to be swapped that Sunday & mailed back (in the self-addressed stamped envelope you provide) the following Monday.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 12th day of Christmas & a Chinese curse

Those of you who think the winter holiday is a distant memory should know that today is, in fact, the Twelfth Day of Christmas.  I always wonder at people who complain about the commercialism of the holiday, but stop the season with the day gifts are given.  Whatever, this is not the first, last or even close to either time that people will just plain puzzle me.

& I have no business starting the new year pontificating on why other people drop the ball; starting just before Thanksgiving my world has been slipping, sliding fast.  The good news is there is fodder for many upcoming posts originating (or culminating) in these last few weeks.  The bad news is a lot happened in the last few weeks.  Bad news for me, anyhow, while I live in interesting times.

But I am trying to think about right now & what comes next.  My parents are very likely undecorating tomorrow.  They usually leave the tree etc. up through today:  Little Christmas.  Last year, I had lunch with M*******, which was accidental....  We planned to have lunch, I had just lost track of how full-circle it was to spend Women's Christmas with a woman who works in a woman's shelter.  This year I have just finished a project that I would like to deliver & today seems like the right day. 

The larger of the two is the string quilt pattern I often make.  It's quick, it's bright & it's not so fancy that someone won't use it.  There are some quilts or hand knits or whatever that are future heirlooms; mine are more for every day. 

The other, smaller quilt is more or less (more really) the Once Upon A Time quilt from The Modern Quilt WorkshopSidebar:  When I was in the business of selling quilt books, I used to tell people there were less than 1/2 dozen quilt books a person really needed to own.  This is one of them.  I also told people that some of the fabric was evil.  You would have to ask M****** & A***** why they did not fire me.  As for the pattern, yes, I have altered it some, added a border of international children (a gift from A**** with her October 2010 swap blocks, left over from a UNICEF fund raiser, I think), etc.  It is still the same pattern really.  & it is for these story quilts, which I make almost compulsively, that I collect all those novelty scraps, participate in I-SPY swaps, etc.

As you may have guessed from the kid-i-ness of these quilts, M******* has been working on a project of her own. 

& that's it, the first post of 2011.