Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"He won't bite"

While I have been neglecting my blog, I have not been neglecting my running.  Running, walking.  Intervals.  I am up to: run a mile, walk a minute, run a mile, etc. for a total of 4+ miles run.  Yes, I am slow & I built up slowly & this means the neighborhood has had ample opportunity to observe my....fine physique ambling about.  Ditto I have had plenty of time to learn the routines of the dogs in the neighborhood & label the deadbeat owners.  & now I will list them, for the benefit of all of you & the Dumb Ass Dog Owners Blog Hop (hosted by Tales from the back road & Heart like a dog) I found at The poodle & dog blog.

I begin mile one all too often trailed by the long legged beagle things that live in the opposite direction up the road.  That's right, the guy whose dogs have attacked our stock, killed one of our cats, sent the other for an extended stay on the roof, & generally made a nuisance of themselves are still around.  Animal control makes almost weekly visits to this guy but there does not seem to be much that can be done unless the dogs are caught red-pawed. 

I lose these dogs once I get to a row of yards with fenced yards & dogs in them.  One has an elderly back mutt of roughly lab-size.  It was out once (someone must have left a gate open) & I ended up crossing the street because it clearly did not want me crossing its driveway, but I would not flag this as dumb-assery; anyone can forget to close a gate once in three years. 

After the old black not-quite-a-lab, there is a pair of corgis who are kind of hilarious.  Their house is off the road but down a straight drive, so I can see them clearly, barking theirs head, off running slightly faster than me, but not much.  They invariable stop ten feet before their closed gate & make sure I know this is their house & then they run home again, as fast as they can.

It stays quiet until I turn on to the dirt road & start past the larger horse farms.  Farm number two has what has to be a full blooded Cane Corso.  This thing is HUGE.  He (yes he, no question) has only barked at me once (I passed another runner & we said "morning" or some such & maybe he was just saying "morning" too but I could live a happy life not hearing that dog-voice again).  He has the gravely bark that goes with an Ancient Roman dog of war.  Mostly he does the other thing he is bred to do, he courses.  He easily keeps pace with me, inside his fence, escorting me from one end of his territory to the other.

Another turn & another largely dog-free stretch, mostly because the houses move further off the road, until I make my final turn & move past Grayson, The Slinker. His family really does call him Grayson, I call him The Slinker because he once climbed to the top of a five foot gate, crawled through the gap at the top & slunk after me.  When I turned & yelled "HEY!" he took off back into his yard.  I saw his people & told them & the very next day there were bungee cords wrapped across the gap & a few weeks later a new, much narrower-gapped gate.  Grayson lived with the most majestic Doberman I ever saw.  I don't see him anymore; I suspect he is sleeping away/has slept away his old age because...Grayson now has two Rottweiler puppies keeping him busy.  I wish they made less noise, but they stay in their (fenced) yard; some days they do just sit & watch me go by, no noise at all.

While I am on the road I might meet the guy next door who I am pretty sure has undiagnosed Asperger's walking his big male German Shepherd whom he adores & is pretty much the only way to connect with him. Also the dog is wonderful to behold, beautifully cared for & trained.  I may also meet the other German Shepherd guy who USED to walk his dog off-leash until it took of after a little girl on a bicycle (she's fine, I'm not sure she knew it even happened, but her father saw & chewed a hole through every ear he could find & actually got the sheriff to issue a ticket-no easy feat) & now clips the leash on grumbling about leash laws whenever he sees someone heading towards them, because the rest of us using public roads is a huge inconvenience to him.

Finally, I might meet K****** who walks a faux-German Shepard she found abandoned in the parking lot at K-Mart & a boxy headed lover boy who look like they could yank her arms right off her body but actually seem more interested in tripping her than anything else.  We usually talk a bit, often about those first long-legged beagle things (the owner CLAIMS they are Walker Hounds but they are the scaredest,  scrawniest, most swayed-back walkers I have ever seen) as they often trail her home, giving her the credit for not scooping up after her dogs, which she does do but if you see a lady walking two dogs & a pile of poop a minute later it is hard not to connect the two.

I never see Bishop anymore.  After that documented encounter, I saw him once or twice being walked on a leash, but it has been well over a year since the last Bishop sighting.  I pass his house twice on my 5-6 times a week run, so I am confident if he still lived there I would know.  I guess when it became clear they could not just send him out the door (they were new to the neighborhood in those days & plenty of people not from around here think all dogs roam free in the country), he had to be relocated.

Which might leave you wondering where is the Dumb Ass Dog Owner?  After all, there is only one continuing problem & I don't go into any detail.  Well, there is a new dog in town, a short timer, as I am pretty sure it belongs to a contractor working on a sizeable addition on one of the houses on my route.  Every time I pass, this dog goes nuts.  Most of the time, it is sitting on the seat or in the bed of a pick-up & seems happy just to bark its face off but this week-end things were different.  I started this same stretch & I could hear the dog, as I often can.  I realized the sound was getting closer & looked up.  A smallish (30-40lbs, maybe), scruffy cute dog was bearing down.  I stopped.  Then I heard a guy saying "He won't bite".  The dog was still running towards me, barking.  It cleared the end of the driveway.  I shouted "HEY" for the dog really, but the guy seemed to think I was trying to get his attention & said something along the lines of "He's just being friendly.  He won't bite".  I started looking around for a rock or stick or something.  When I came up with a chunk of cinderblock, the guy decided it was time to maybe bring his dog to heal (in all fairness the dog was now less than three feet from me & had made no attempt to bite, but it was barking & lunging & barking & lunging & looked ready to settle in for a long game of bark & lunge).  We had a brief chat in which DADO made it clear that I was being completely unreasonable & I offered to smash his dog's skull in there on the public street & then we could wait for a sheriff to sort out who was in the wrong.

I meet a DADO fairly regularly (usually the same one, yep the guy with the free-range mongrel hounds), but I am often impressed by how many I DON'T meet.  There are many red-flag dog breeds on my route (& in my house:  a German Shephard, a pit-looking mix, two mini-dachshunds -the bitingest breed of all & a cocker spaniel, another breed no stranger to nips), but mostly people who get "dangerous" dogs know it & take care.  It is the people who think their little angels would never hurt a fly that are the real problem. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 so far

I keep starting posts & not finishing them in a timely way,  & then they go past their due date (like my Blogger's Quilt Festival post complete with pictures.  Linky closed on Friday.  WHOOPS!).   Also, I don't exactly hate but am less interested in other peoples' posts about why they haven't been posting.  So I thought instead I would just catch up, the big & the small, & maybe get back into the swing of things now that the days are getting shorter & there is just as much as there ever was to fill them.  So here it is, in no particular order:

I met my Goodreads reading quota for 2014 just last week.  Yes, It's a small thing but I am still pleased.  & I am of course aware that some of the books on the list are barely worthy of counting (but I LIKE picture books).  A few highlights- I am almost up to date on Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series.  I will say Broken Harbor was not a favorite but Faithful Place was so good that I plan to continue.  Jonathan Tropper continues to make it work, as far as I'm concerned & I discovered Leanne Shapton (Important Artifacts is my big book recommendation of the year.  Turns out no one who has asked for a book recommendation from me has not gotten this title at the top of the list; even people who asked months ago have received revised lists putting this on at the top.  It is a thing of beauty).  On the other hand Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken was just kind of meh for me.  I know there are people who thought it was fan-f*cking-tastic, but I am not one of them.

I have become a baby quilt making machine  There will be AT LEAST three births in one 4 month period (that ends in FEB 2015, unless it doesn't) & that is just the tail end, unless it isn't.  In days gone by I tended to make quilts in pairs or triples.  The baby quilt I prefer (Modern Quilt Studio's Once Upon a Time from their book The Modern Quilt Workshop) which lends itself to this as you can make lots & lots of connecting blocks & be 1/2-way done with one when you are done-done with the other.  Trust me, it makes sense & it does NOT make two of the same quilt.  Generally I make a set of girls quilts, a set of boys quilts &/or a set of gender neutral quilts (that's right, pink, blue & green-sue me).  I try to mix up the sets so I use up the little I-SPY images & avoid duplicate looking quilts.  But so far, for more than two years it has been ALL GIRLS.  & the next one is ALSO a girl.  I have a closet full of blue & green (& yellow & purple) baby quilts & parents who are decorating in pink-stravaganza.  Yes, at some point someone is going to have a surprise baby boy & I am going to look like a genius but until then I am swimming in pink.

Cowgirl had a baby.  Cowgirl had a baby GIRL!!!  No quilt for her, but I am pleased nonetheless. Because Hattie (Hathor, Hattie for short) arrived just a couple weeks before the cold weather we are leaving mama & baby be for longer than usual & plan to start a milking schedule by the end of this month.

My bathroom is still is not working properly. I don't want to talk about it. 

The banana trees went ballistic this year. We cut two more blooms down yesterday (cold snap last light) & they are ripening on the kitchen counter. 

I am up to (down to) a 15 minute mile, which I can maintain for.....two miles. Hey, it's no Paul Ryan speed but still I am pleased.  On Friday I started covering four miles total (run a mile, walk a minute, run a mile, like that) & I hope to keep it up even in the cold weather.  If it seems like I took an absurd amount of time to get here, you are right.  In late 2013 I had a bone density blip & it was suggested that any impact anything would not be a good idea.  For a while.  & I only started trying to run again this past August.  In the meantime, I have been BollyBlasting my way to...nowhere actually.  Still fun, though. 

Yes, I'm sure there has been more, but this is all I can remember.  Or all I care about.  More likely this is all that overlaps in a Venn diagram of things I can remember & things I care about. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Let's try this again

My blogging (& pretty much everything else extra) has gone to complete nothing in the past two months.  Posts here have been of the queued up in advance variety or not at all.  Everything around me has ben exploding, in mostly good ways & no really bad ways, just exploding. The abundant rain has meant abundant roses...weeds & weeding & grass & mowing....  We had one planned big chore this year-a new roof.  & it is marvelous.  We had a handful of unplanned as well.  This is how the worst of them began:

That's a lie, actually.  It began-began with an outside pipe attached to an outside spigot that had corroded so badly that it (the spigot) needed to be replaced.  The hose was uncoupled & then we learned the hard way that nothing was supporting the plumbing pipes except the attachment to the hose on the outside & the toilet on the inside. 

Thus began two solid weeks of inconvenience as the whole apparatus had to be stabilized before it could be hooked back up.  This mean tearing up the wall in the bathroom, putting in a hole to access the plumbing doing the work & then backing back out, fixing the damage to wall, insulation & vapor barrier as we went.

As we were making there anyway, I asked if the replacement wall board could be recessed a bit s we could avoid the condensation on the back of the toilet would not get trapped against the wall as it always had before, resulting in a very scuzzy stain underneath the wallpaper & a not very attractive rippling of the wallpaper itself.  Seriously, this house was built by ass-holes.  Readers of this blog might remember the fun we had in the other bathroom when we discovered that toilet had been installed over a pipe that was jagged & broken, parts of the cracks originating well below the surface of the floor.  This time, we had a pretty shabby plumbing job & a toilet set about 2 inches to close to the wall.  & nothing we can do about the second unless we tear up the floor.  Say what you will about permits & such, this house would have benefitted from a couple once-overs from someone who gave a sh*t, even if it was just because it was his job.

The good news is the repair is in place, we are a two toilet house again (YAY).  Since I was stuck there anyhow, I started tearing off the wall paper & hope to have it all gone....soon.  & then I am going to paint.  The existing woodwork will all be that same color as the kitchen/dining/front-room Behr's  camembert.  As for the rest, I am still deciding.

For those who have been in close proximity to me & my cursing, this happened the week AFTER my husband decided to clean the to-the-outside dryer vent & then dropped it through the hole in the house, behind the washer&dryer, necessitating the removal of both to get back there & recover the vent as well as clean up the years' worth of dryer vent fuzz that spilled underneath the appliances.   This was, however the same bathroom as that momentous event. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blubber & Clover

Every year around this time, I fold a book I might otherwise not read (or reread) into the pile in honor of Banned Books Week.  This year, I read (listened to) Blubber.  & yes, I know I has probably never been banned although it is often challenged.  What caught my eye was WHY it is so often suggested to be inappropriate for school libraries.

The book is, to be brief, about bullying.  & brace yourself:  the bullies are never really punished.  Even better (or worse) when the bullied have a chance to bully back, do they...you bet!  & the problem with this is it sends the wrong message.  Apparently.  Because that is of course in the eye of the beholder.  Since the narrator is first person, anyone reading (listening!) has ringside seats in her experiences, injustices, etc.  there are very few adult-originated repercussions, but there is plenty of lesson to go around, if that is what you think every book on every school library shelf should be about.  SIDEBAR// this circuitous reasoning kind of made me laugh:  I have a problem with this book, therefore it should not be available to anyone.  That's right, I am bullying you out of access to a book about bullying because the bullies are inadequate punished.  Now everyone try & think of a way to punish THIS bully.

So I read Blubber.  Listened to, I listened to Blubber.  It was not familiar so I doubt I had encountered it before.  Which brings me to the other book I read during banned books month: Clover.  I had never read Clover either (it was published in 1991 & not that I didn't read children's books in my 20s, I was not exactly the demographic) although I had heard of the movie-mostly because of the cast.

Here is the thing about Clover:  it is a gentle, quiet book about a death immediately following a wedding.  A black man marries a white woman that his daughter, Clover, is none to sure about & then he dies in a car accident.  Everything that was changing, changes again.  I am not going to tell you anything else, read it don't read it, whichever you like. 

But here is the funny thing:  I looked & looked & looked & could find no where that Clover was ever challenged.  Maybe we are getting better after all. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A second update on the Cotton Robin post or Why I did what I did next

http://uselessranch.blogspot.com/2014/07/an-overdue-cotton-robin-post-or-why-i.htmlWhen I left off last week, I had sent the center block with the first border I added on to its next stage.  & then I had a good long time to stare at my own spare center & the border I had added to it.  Unlike last time, I had no idea what I wanted to do next.

Soooo...this time I decided to let it lie until the next Cotton Robin block (a different center plus someone else's first border) got here which did not happen until late March (more or less the deadline, so that was hardly a problem).   But I had sent my first round off very early; I knew the beginning of March would be madness.  Even though I had no idea what would arrive & even if I knew which of the starting centers I was getting, I could not guess what the last person might have done, I still kept going back to look at all the possible centers I might get-which was all of them minus my own & the one I had just shipped off. 

Then, shortly after that I happened to be looking at the blog of another Cotton Robin member & there big as life was my focus fabric in a completely different kind of project.  & I couldn't help it, my brain started rolling in a completely different direction.  Between this & the length of time between rounds, my Cotton Robin fever had a chance to subside (a good thing). 

Then it arrived.  I followed the same drill as the first time:  I took a picture & put it where I would see it several times a day (the fridge).  I would love to be able to clip the actual quilt-in-progress to the fridge, but I really did not want to get it dirty.  & I had a small but steady fear the magnet clip would fail & slowly creep down the fridge & a dog would tear it into pieces.  So.  Picture. 

At this point, I had been feeling guilty for a while that the border I made for the previous center was "not sophisticated enough".  I could always see the border I made my own block was "more", but the first center I was given was more complex than my own center had been.  & if I had made the same border I still think it would have detracted rather than enhanced that center.  I also turned that block around super-quick, mostly because March 3rd was the Monday of Spring Break & I knew that week & the week after would be hell (the deadline to get it where it was going was March 20th; if I didn't get it done early I was almost certain to be late), but this was contributing to my guilt.  If I had been able to keep it longer, would I have done "more"...?  Probably not. 

The block arrived with a note from the previous rounder.  She had gone a bit bigger than planned & hoped I could work with it.  I thought what she had done was way-worth the extra space & started thinking small for my own round.  The detail in the center was also small scale, so small seemed the order of the day.  Applique is really not my thing, never mind small applique & I thought the triangle round could not be matched so I thought about small & square.  Square & small.  I cruised a few quilt shops looking for batiks & hand dyes & eventually settled on a blue, a green & a brown that I thought worked with what was already in use.

The more I looked at the picture, the more I realized there was a wave type pattern throughout the whole block:  waves in the fabric dye, waves in the center curls & a wave across the peaks of the triangles of the border & I really wanted to continue that.  First though, I needed to make a narrow border to top off what came before.  I could not find anything like the very pale blue that is the background of the first border, so I went with brown instead.  I was fortunate that my predecessor had stay-stitched just under 1/4" from the edge, making it very easy to catch her perfect points. I added a 1.5" strip knowing that I would be trimming it down to whatever worked best with whatever I did next.

Because the center is on a small scale & again because a note was included the first border was a bit wider than intended (& worth every extra bit of space), I wanted to keep things small but interesting.  To that end, I mapped out a wave pattern using the batik fabrics I acquired.  In an effort not to distract from the complex center & elegant first border, I decided to go with a modified checkerboard.  The strips started at 1.5" so the whole thing was less than 6" all around.  I did add a very wide (2") border around the whole thing, but that was because I like to "quilt off" into extra border that I can cut away.

For my own I did go for a busier checkerboard & I didn't worry about being too large-I'm the one who will live with it & if it's OKay with me it's OKay. 

That I made another simple border was not lost on me.  But at least this time I made more or less the same one for my own center.  Somewhere in here the notification went up that two people were dropping out, deadlines were being extended & so forth, but I was already in gear & mailed this center with the second round border by the original deadline. Just as well, as I was mailing overseas & it took a bit longer en route than I would have liked.  Still it arrived where it was going well before the final center now with two borders arrived here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It continues

My hazy July is looking to last right through today.  I guess the good news is August is mostly on track.  So far.  Which is more than I could say for July on the last day of June.

The July block swaps -both sign-up only- were their own mini-disaster.  That's not fair, actually.  Well Preserved went mostly fine.  One person injured herself & was a day or so late but she let me know ahead of time & she has never been late before.  It was Home for the Holidays that got in my grill.  That can all wait for another post.  Today I am trying to remember good things that happened in July: 
  • I killed my calendula (not good) but managed to collect seeds before she got flooded & the seedlings are doing well.  So far.
  • Last week, I could not face going where I was supposed to be & dawdled in the used bookstore I have not visited in well over a year & there, in the clearance cart on the sidewalk was a good-as-new copy of I Capture the Castle.  I almost wept.  & yes, I bought it. 
  • We have our new roof.  This was not actually a July-thing but this business of not worrying about leaks & having way more light (replaced skylight, installed sun tunnel) has enhanced my days.
  • My drawing class wrapped & I left feeling like I just might take another in the Fall.  In the hour before I needed to leave for class I would ask myself why I signed up for one more thing, but once I got there I was glad I made the effort.  Another funny thing- no matter how exhausted I was (& trust me I was exhausted) once I started drawing I wasn't.  After class the tired feeling came back but by then I was headed home & to bed so who cares.  Maybe different parts of my brain get used up at different rates.
  • I started kettlebelling.  It seems like an odd choice, I know.  Weights have never been my deal, also I have plenty of muscle (hauling 50lb bags of feed around will give you invisible muscles & milking a cow will make you the scourge of men who like to dominate with a hand shake), but I was watching a documentary (that Mariel Hemingway made about her family that I am still on the fence about) & she was flinging this thing around in the yard & I thought I could give that a try.  I love it.  Love It.  LOVE IT.  A***** told me about how boxing/kick-boxing/whatever it was (I am sorry, I love you but I don't remember what it is you DO) was too anger-dissipating for her to quit, despite being the only girl in class & not in a good way, despite the instructor getting frustrated with her, despite everything; getting mad as hell & lashing out just felt good.  Let me recommend kettlebell.  Flinging 7lbs around while screaming "how hard can it be to park in just one space" & other things of that ilk has kept me from killing people.  It probably helps that some part of most days it is nice enough to be outside & we have enough property that I can get well away from windows...& walls.  Because when I lose control of that thing it can take out a fence board (ask me how I know).
I am sure there were other good things in July.  & if these sound like low-grade good things trust me they were a big deal. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

An overdue Cotton Robin post or Why I did what I did when I did it

First, I am writing this in February but queuing it up for July, when hopefully all the Cotton Robin quilts will have made their way home (& they have-if you want to jump ahead you can see the big reveal here).

Last December I joined the Cotton Robin.  & then I spent no time at all thinking about what I was going to make for my center because of a whole lot of reasons including but not limited to a cow's homecoming.  So the deadline kind of snuck up on me & I made something that was not exactly "me" but was not exactly "not me". 

I wanted to make a bird trap.  I REALLY wanted to make a bird trap.  But I figured that was not in the spirit of anonymity.  So I made a variation on one of the Mosaic blocks in Brackman & shipped it off with a quarter yard of the floral print & sort of forgot about it.  I thought.

Did I mention I made two?  I should have said:  I made two blocks as identical as I could.  I even used the same fabric scrap pieces in the same places in each block.

So off went one of my center blocks & I kept one & even though I tried very hard not to, I started thinking about the first round of my own center.  I tried not to because I did not want my own 1st round to unduly influence what I did with what I got.  Finally the center I was assigned arrived (I say "finally" but I am pretty sure I got mine first).  I took a scan & a few pictures & made sure I looked at it frequently for almost a week (I did this by putting the picture up on the fridge).

As it happened, this center was accompanied by several strips that while not exactly the same as the fabrics used in the block, they were close enough (same pattern, different colorway type things).  There was also a clearly marked (as you can see) top.  Harder to see is that outer border; it has script that the quilter went to some trouble to maintain in a consistent orientation.  In other words, there is a clear top edge, even if it isn't marked.

Things percolated for a while.  I was actually dragging my feet because I had a very firm idea what I was going to do with my own center block.  In the end, I did my own first border just to get it out of my system & then I added the first border for the center I had been sent.

Before we go on, here is my own center block with the first border:

I have been obsessing, maybe too much on flying geese of late, but I also liked the idea of half square triangles of the same fabric as the border they bump against.  The result: flying geese with half the background in the floral border already there & half the background the white on white dot.  Voilà!

& once I got past that idea, I was able to give the center I received my full attention.  I did actually briefly toy with the same sort of border, but this center was just enough bigger that it would have made the flying geese that much bigger & the overall quilt that much more bigger-bigger.  As it is, my own center is now almost certain to make a quilt larger than the recommended size.  I felt OKay doing this to myself, it was me making a decision for me after all, but I did not want to make that decision for anyone else.  Also, unlike my center which was mostly equal parts, this center had a stand-out central feature & my big-old-mess approach to layout would not highlight that which the quilter who made it chose to highlight.  Somewhere in here I realized the center square had a double frame (a mat & frame, if you will) border & I thought it would be nice to repeat that, so my borders were going to have to be narrow.  Flying geese were out; they never should have been in.

In the end, I used a green dot from my own stash that was very similar to the green dot provided (which I also used) & made a half-square triangle border with that green on one side & softer colors on the other (many of those were also culled form the strips provided). 

Because the center was in such soft colors but still so graphic, I pointed the border in instead of out, hoping that would give it more of a frame & not take over.  & then I repeated the same inner border/outer border look that was part of the original center block, ending with a light, lightly patterned border that squares everything up but can also be trimmed down if it needs to be. 

Before I packaged it up, I put back that bit of blue tape back that marks the center top. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A wet month

Among the many things I have not been blogging is how much rain we are getting, in part because this seems like bragging.  I realize that many of our local crops require a very rigid sun/water/ temperature routine (on the other hands the catch-as-catch-can farmers market sellers have stalls overflowing) so all this rain is not a good thing in that way.  After the fires the first year we had this house & every couple years after that pretty much up until the year before last I have vowed not to complain about the rain.


But the pressure in my head has been killing me.  My allergies are on wild monkey at the wheel overdrive & my ear are popping like that monkey is sitting on my brain flicking a clog/pop switch at random. 

Speaking of monkeys, we have had so much rain that we seems to be looking at an early banana crop.  We had some verrrrrry cold days last winter & I did not have my hopes up for bananas at all, but those distinctive purple petals showed up on the walkway last week so I looked up.  Sure enough, two purple blooms are emerging.  I have been reliably told that the variety we have is "lady fingers" which have a very distinctive (wonderful!) flavor & do not ship well at all so they are a strictly local pleasure.  & by local I mean my own house & maybe a few friends & neighbors.

In a not entirely unrelated note:  we have been doing a lot of gardening this year & I plan to di up some of the young banana plants that are encroaching on other parts of the yard.  If anyone (locals only again, sorry) is interested let me know.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Accidental vacation

Yep, that's what happened.  I took an accidental digital vacation.  It really wasn't planned.  We had been thinking this would be a quiet summer, no trips plans, no visitors coming here.  So....

We had a new roof installed.  Also replaced a very gurney skylight & added a sun tunnel in the dark cave that doubles as our front room (no longer dark or cave-like)

We got the Honda repainted.  To explain why would be this long drawn out story of the floor girl telling us the reason our paint seems to be washing off the roof, hood & trunk of the car is because we had not waxed it properly.  I offered to show her the years-older Tundra I have never washed never mind waxed & looks just fine (dirty, but fine) & then she located a notice that there was in fact a flaw in that particular year's paint.  No shit Sherlock.  They took a week to do a three day job & fixed the door locks AGAIN.  If we ever buy another Honda, you will know the body snatchers have arrived.

Sherlock.  I watched seasons one through three in a week, which I know is no one else's idea of bingeing, but I have trouble sitting for 45 minutes for any reason at all.

Buffy.  After Sherlock, I moved on to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  As a palate cleanse.

I also tipped out our closet, unloaded shoes, bags & clothing, located he TWO separate holes we suspect mice have been using & put it back together.  Still don't have enough room for all our crap.  My crap.

I found a dog that looked just like Jane on-line & gazed at the post on Petfinder every day for three weeks but managed to not dial the phone.  This would be much easier if I could just stop cruising Petfinder, but I cannot.

I have finished no quilts or projects of any kind, but the roses are looking wonderful & the peacock ginger is going gang-busters.  I managed to spend my day-a-week at the herbarium, made it to a new faculty meet & greet reception-thing in a skirt & everything, got the dogs that we have groomed groomed & have mostly kept my head above water.  But when something has to give, it's blogging.

I hope I'm back.  I think I am.

Friday, June 27, 2014

What does handmade mean to you...meaning me

Remember when this was going to be my Block Lotto year?  Yeah, me too.  I was so ready to make every single block.  I labeled a big ziplock (so you know I was serious) for all my future Block Lotto block parts.  I made January's blocks & sent them out into the world....& have not done a damn thing since.  OKay, that's a lie.  I have been keeping up with the monthly linky...linkies

& this month is "what does handmade mean to you?" & you know, I don't know.  Once upon a time I could have been sure I knew:  made with hands.  but the fact is I don't actually think of a hand knit sweater that I purchase as "handmade'  & I do think of a bread I make in my own bread machine as "handmade".  Sorta.  Now that I look at it in print that seems goofy. 

I guess "handmade"  to me means made by my hands.  Or your hands.  Hands I know or know of.  I realize that seems petty.  When we were in Hawaii, I bought V** a change purse with a purple turtle appliqued on it.  After the hibiscus the turtle was the most ubiquitous motif we saw.  It was made by hand & mass produced; somehow not "hand made" to me.

The ridiculous thing (one of them) is if I take something mas produced, like fabric & batting & thread & mix it up with something else mass produced like a pattern in a book put I through some mass produced tools like a rotary cutter & a sewing machine & insert my hands THATS makes it "handmade". 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More romance in the wood collection

I know I said no more wood posts.  Well, not exactly, I think it was more along the lines of the blocks of wood not being everyone's cup of tea.  But last week I found this beauty:
Let me set the scene.  It is the summer of 1941 & we are in darkest Africa.  Feel free to picture the collector Stearns as you will:  Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, whatever gets you through the night.  & actually we aren't in DARKEST Africa, we are in Algeria, so it is more like driest Africa.  But in June 1941 Italy invaded France (France, if you didn't know was the colonial empire that "oversaw" Algeria from) so things were metaphorically dark whatever the climate.

Stearns has made his...her way from the settled shores & into the Atlas Mountains for whatever reason: espionage, human trafficking, searching for King Solomon's Mines, what-have-you.  & in the mountains, Stearns find a tree.  Not just any tree but a tree of legend.  Or rather, a tree species of legend.  & at the very least Stearns takes down a branch (a branch of some size given the piece I handled) & ships it to.....

A shop teacher in Miami.

The best part of this story is that the only part I know is absolutely true is the shop teacher in Miami.  That & there really was a war on.  How could I not love the wood collection?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Some overdue books

Ideally, I would have gotten this Books by the yard nudge up before this past weekend at the latest, but it was not to be as May & even April had lingering effects.  & this particular blocks does not have firmly fixed instructions, as each block of books is bound to have slightly different widths & heights so that each shelf (or border, if you plan to use your books to wrap around a story quilt of some kind) which makes directions a trickier business.

Let me begin with the broad strokes:
  • When you are all done your block should be no less than 8.5" tall & if you go up to 8.75" no one will fault you.  In the same vein your block should be at least 8.5" wide & if you go a bit longer (more on this in a bit) that will be OKay, too.
  • Your background should be WHITE fabric.  Solid white is goo, white-on-white design is OKay, too.  If your background has anything but white & this means cream or gold o teeny tiny little dots, you will get your blocks back.
  • Your block should have at least five different books.  It may have more; it cannot have fewer.
I have found the best way to begin is with the individual books themselves. & mostly I chain pieced these.  I cut a length of white muslin between 4.5" & 5.25 inches wide.  I am not trying to be difficult, I just sort of sliced.  In my original direction I suggested the background be less than 1/2 of the completed 8.5", so 4.5" seemed like a good number.  The extra is because as I assemble, things will be staggered for a bit (you'll see, I promise).

In this see, you can see one of them was actually a three-parter; I added the black band at the top of one to give it a bookier look.  Also, it stretched out what was a too-narrow book strip because if the background is in the ballpark of 4.5" the book strip should be not less than 5.5".


I know I said it in the original post but here it is again: 
  • The background piece should be less than or equal to 1/2 of the finished block + 1/2" by the width of the number of books you hope to make; the book pieces should be greater than or equal to 1/2 of the finished block +1/2" by that same width. 
To add a variety of books spines (otherwise they I would have had massive amount of one or two book&background strips, which is not al that useful) I also took a strip of background & added a few scraps along it.  Most of them will make at least two books widths, that yellow one maybe four.
  • I cut the book&background strips in widths between 2" & 3" wide & I mean anywhere in between.  So long as the edge was straight I did not worry about widths being precisely on the  1/2" or even 1/4" mark.   The idea is to have a variety.
So that I could have a frame of reference, I cut one strip to roughly 9" tall & then built my block out around it.  This gave me a top & bottom point that I knew I needed to overlap with each subsequent book.  It also helped keep me from bringing book tops too close to the upper edge (you don't want to make your books so tall that background disappears completely above it).
For each end, I used a particularly wide book.  This way, if whoever gets it needs to cut it down to fit in a row, no harm is done.  I cut this particular block to 8.75" tall by 9" long but in truth I need to make it a skosh narrower-9" wide is too wide.
& that is it really, another way (other than outlined in Books by the yard last January) of making these blocks.  They are due IN-HOUSE (not postmarked by) the last SAT in June which is June 28, 2014.  We do not have a 6th block person for this swap so if you sent 6th blocks you might get them back or they might be swapped.  Either way, you will get the count you sent. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In which I draw a rose

I do not worry all that much about dementia.  First of all there is zero history of early on-set on either side of my family tree.  & second, no ones mind really started to go until they were in their 90s (& by go, I mean change in any real way from when they were in their 20s-yes there are plenty of squirrely people in my family but they have ALWAYS been squirrely; the old lady who cannot name the last three presidents in her 70s would have had to think long & hard about it in her 30s).  That being said, I am not interested in losing any mental ground for whatever reason, most especially including inertia. 

To that end, & because I have wanted to for a long time, I signed up for a beginning drawing class.  & last night was the first night.  As I understand it, each week will be a different technique & last night we began with blind contour drawing.  So I got to see my same old technique up close & personal:  I trace.  I don't mean plonk the object down on the paper & trace around it, I mean move my hand without touching the paper around & around & around the paper until I am comfortable with the routine & then I drop my needle...erm I mean pen & make my drawing.  Fast.  & with my eyes closed.

I said this when I was asked & the teacher is too nice to call me a liar (she really is very nice).  When we did it a second time, I saw her watch me.  Or rather, I saw her when I opened my eyes.  Later when she saw what I had done, her advice was to slow down.  I think I have given her a false view of my drawing skills though because blind contour drawing is a lot like free motion quilting, except you get to hold the pen in your hand instead of having to push the paper around underneath it. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Number 1.

In general I don't talk much about my work at the herbarium.  I mean it's blocks of wood & index cards.  I take a card, I find the wood specimen it references, I check it off & I enter the information in a DBF file for a future index.  It is exactly as boring as it sounds & more than a little bit soothing.  Most weeks one or two small things happen that make me happy.  Even the sad things make me happy. 
Yes, yes there are sad discoveries.  The most heartbreaking thing I ever tripped over at the herbarium was a pile of plants still in the newspaper they were collected & pressed in.  The top half pre-dated WWII & everything was collected by either So&so Senior or So&so Junior or both.  It spanned a couple of months & small range of places in the Southeastern US.  Then there was a gap, timewise.  The next specimen was in newspaper was dated after the war & from there on everything was collected by So&so Senior.  There were another 20 years of plants collected & no more sign of So&so Junior.  It took a little while to register & when it did, my heart started to race & my hands shook & I had to leave the mounting room because I started to cry.  I told the students I was working with that I had gotten some grit in my eye (this does actually happen) & rushed to the bathroom. 

This week in the wood collection I discovered this index car specimen combo.  This particular collector was prolific (I am 99.9% he is no longer collecting; I am 99.9% sure he is no longer alive, actually) & it was a small thrill to find his very first.  That number in blue pen is the herbarium's record number, that typed "1."  is the collector's number.  The rest of the label is a delight, too.  So much detail about where the specimen was collected.  Not just the country & province, which is usually the best I can hope for but a landmark that might indicate an environment (the ridge).  While this is not uncommon in plant specimens, this is the first time I can ever remember seeing an environment in for a wood.
The only thing missing is the date the wood was collected, a very rookie oversight.  Trust me, in the world of the wood collection this is adorable. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

& then it was June

This past weekend, half in May, half in June was particularly crazy here.  Being the last Saturday of the month, there was a Quilt Block Swap group deadline.  Alas, in keeping with the way the group has been going lately, two of the six sets where not here on time (one is en route the other is MIA & I promise no more bitching about that here), so that swap still has not happened.  Being the first of the month, we had all that first of the month stuff, & lastly being the first of JUNE, A is up to his eyeballs as the last month of the university's fiscal year goes flying by.

In bigger backyard news, we finally torched the enormous burn pile that had been sitting in the pasture for well over a year.  While I kept an eye on the fire & gathered down limbs from around the pasture, A moved another burn pile of roughly the same size & added it.  I stopped counting at five pick-uploads (mostly because at that point A said there were at least three more loads & then three or more loads later I asked if we were close to done & he said nope, three more at least).  It was a long day.  As a side bar, though, if anyone wants ash for their garden call me.  I am moving some to my compost pile & on to the gardens themselves but there is PLENTY.  With all the rain we are having, though, in another week two or so it will all be washed into the ground.

That was days ago & I am still sore.  Also, it turns out what I thought was a cluster of fire ant bites on my foot is shaping up more like a place where hot ash landed on bare skin.  Yes, it was so hot that a dime sized piece of burning ash did not grab my attention; I guess these things are relative right up until they go too far.

Generally, I try to do garden & yard work before noon or after 5pm.  If it isn't too hot -& it usually is- it is brutally humid.  So in the middle of the day, I go inside & do...whatever.  & whatever I do, I usually do with an audio book going which brings me to:  June is Audio Book Month.

It is astonishing I did not now this before, although I suppose it is possible 2014 is the first year of this...event.  Nope, I just checked, it dates back at least to 2011.  Oh well.   It's not like knowing would have changed the way I spent the month.  As far as I am concerned every month is audio book month.  Sitting in my audiobook pile right now:  The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, Welcome to Paradise by Laurence Shames & the one I have been waiting for Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Solstice prism for December 2014

Last year's year-long Rainbow Connection was one of the more popular swaps & it probably never would have happened if this idea had occurred to me when I was choosing blocks.  I was trying to put together a single block that had the complete ROYGBP that is the quilters rainbow & could did come up with one until after the Rainbow Connection had already begun, so I back-burnered it until a year had gone by.  This is the traditional quilt block "Northwind" with a rainbow twist.  It is also a big block; the block will be 12.5" unfinished/12" finished.  The pieces within the blocks are also big (in my version the smallest square you deal with is 4.5") but that is where the simplicity ends.

Which brings me to a caution:  this is not an easy block.  It has a lot of wide open bias edges, the sizing of the pieces is weird (all 1/8" stuff if you use the Quilters Cache version & "match this edge to that corner & never mind the extra" if you use mine) & so forth.  If you have never done an open bias to bias block before your should expect to make one just for practice because I guarantee something is going to get squished, stretched or somehow damaged making the block unswappable.  Even ordinary mistakes that can be fixed with a seam ripper are a headache in this block (because ripping a bias edge ALWAYS stretches it).  On top of all that you need to keep track of what colors you are using where because while one half of the fabric will be a background, the other half will be one each o red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple.  I am not trying to discourage anyone from trying the block, I am saying there is a learning curve. 

To begin, I am pointing you towards directions in Quilters Cache, which are perfectly adequate, but we are making a few changes.  The block is North Wind (if this link does not work, you can go to Quilters Cache, find the list that includes blocks that begin with "N" & scroll to North Wind).  Even if you plan to use my directions, do yourself a favor & go to Quilters Cache & print these as well.  My directions are specific to our color scheme, but otherwise they are not necessarily easier. 

For our swap, instead of a straight two fabric block, one half of the block will be your background fabric, which is either black, white, black-on-black or white-on-white.  You are likely to get a mix of black or white blocks back; I will not be sorting only black to people who sent black, etc.  So far, so good. You will need five smaller pieces (for the images below I cut 5" squares) & one larger (I used a 9.5" square). 

The other half will require one scrap each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple.  You will need more of one of them; all together they make the other half of the complete block.  Again, you can follow the Quilters Cache directions or you can use these-whatever works.  You will need five smaller pieces (for the images below I cut 5" squares) & one larger (I used a 9.5' square).  I don't care which color is larger; I used whatever I happened to have the most of & leftovers for the others. 

Below are the pictures/directions for making it my way.  Again, you can use the Quilters Cache way if you prefer so long as you use our colors: a single background fabric of black, black-on-black, white, OR white-on-white & one each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.

I paired three of the 5" colors with three of the 5" backgrounds & made six 1/2-square triangles.  take one of each color combo & out the other aside (this is not a block you can make many at once, at least not at first).  Press these blocks open, either all towards or all way from the background & cut down to 4.5" square.  From the remaining background & color pieces (two 5" squares & one 9.5" square) I cut corner to corner making open bias triangles.  I put aside half of them & then laid out the pieces to make sure I had one of each color.

Divide the center part into three columns.  One column will be a 1/2-square triangle & a background triangle, one will be a 1/2-square triangle & the third (the center column) will be a 1/2-square triangle with both a background triangle & a color triangle. To make these columns, line up the right angle of the triangle piece with the corner of the 1/2-square triangle square.

If you find yourself stitching a color edge to a color edge or a background edge to a background edge STOP.  There is no such join in the entire block.  Then lay everything out & check it again.

I suggested that you press either to or away from the background (depending on whether your background is black or white).  If you did that, then you can lock the seams of the two outer columns with the center column.  Your straight edges will all square up & you will end with a piece that looks something like this.

Now it is a matter of snipping those dog ears from the center & lining up the center of your end triangle with the center of your strip of piece triangles & 1/2-sqaure triangles.  I found what worked for me was pressing a crease from the right angle to the bias edge but this can be tricky as any stretching is a bad, bad thing.

When it all goes together you might need to square it up to 12.5" unfinished, but you might just have to clip the dog-ears & be done. 

Blocks are due in-house the last Saturday in December which is December 27, 2014.  Because mail gets slower around the holidays (even if there are a lot fewer holiday cards being snail mailed, there are also a lot fewer postal employees & they take time off just like the rest of us!) I strongly suggest getting everything in the mail no later than the Friday before Christmas which will be Friday, December 19th. 

Colorful cats for October 2014

I had already thought of, written the directions & made the samples for our December 2014 Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group block, but I find that sometimes there is residue that lingers.  So, yes, that one did influence this one, just like that one was influenced by the Rainbow Connection that ran 2013 through January 2014.  Hopefully, there is enough in the mix that no one feels like they are making the exact same thing over & over again.

The block we are making is the very straightforward Puss In The Corner which is a center square with either lighter or darker borders & the same fabric in the center repeats in each of the four corners.  The block will be 8.5" unfinished/8" finished. 

You can use as few as two fabrics & they need to be a light & a dark of the same color.  I don't care which color it is (although not white or black, obviously).  You can use two different shades of pink or green or orange or red or blue or brown or even gray (if I left out a color it was an oversight, not a restriction).  It does not matter which you use for the center & corner blocks & which for the borders just so long as one is clearly lighter & the other is clearly darker & they are both indisputably the same color (no yellow corners & centers with orange borders PLEASE).  I understand it can be hard to find single color fabrics w/out some white or black so some white or black can be used but the idea is a light of one color & a dark of SAME. 

You have the option of doing something extra with the center block if you want; if you do decide to use other fabrics, they must be in that same color OR a mix of that color &/or white &/or black.  In general, these will be fabrics that read-as-solid (are the same color throughout) although some white or even a very little black would be OKay.  Please DO NOT use a fabric that is more black &/or white than whichever color you choose & DO NOT use a fabric that has more than one color (a blue with green polka dots, for example would NOT be correct, or pink with yellow flowers or anything with any different color).

Begin with a 4.5" square.  This can be a single fabric OR it can be pieced from lights, mediums & darks of your chosen single color.  You can make a traditional 4-patch or 9-patch or what-have-you so long as you end up with a 4.5" square. IF you use a third (or fourth or whatever fabric, this is where you will use it).  I am going to come back to this, later actually, so lets move on.

From your second fabric (or third or fourth, if that is what it has come to, depending on what you did for your center) you will need four strips, 2.5" by 4.5".  Please do NOT use this fabric anywhere else in the block.  In other words, if you do choose to piece a center block, this fabric should NOT be in it.  The idea is for the borders to be clearly different than the center & repeating fabrics can blur this..

From your first fabric, or one of the fabrics used in the 4.5" center, or yet another fabric that is light to the border's dark OR dark to the border's light but otherwise the same color, you will need four more 2.5" squares.  The corners should all be from the same single fabric & they should be either a light to contrast with the dark border fabric OR a dark to contrast with the light border fabric.
  • Again, the corners & the center (if it is not pieced) should be light or dark. 
  • The side borders should be whichever (dark or light) the corners are not. 
  • The fabric you use on the side pieces (those 4.5" by 2.5" that press against the edges of the enter block) should NOT be used anywhere else in the completed block. 
  • If you elect to piece the center square, you will need to find a third (or fourth or fifth) fabric that is in the same color (i.e. all shades of blue).  You can use at least some of the corner fabric in the center block; you CANNOT use your side border rectangles anywhere else in the block even if you piece the center
Now back to the centers.  You can use just one fabric, the same as your corner posts if you wish.  You can make any traditional or non-traditional 4-patch or 9-patch.  You can even go crazy with open biased edges if you like (usually I discourage this but since you will be the one adding a border to it, go for it). 

Lastly something a bit different.  You are welcome to send as many sets of five as you like (we always swap in sets of five unless you are sending a 6th block in which case you send six & get five back) but FOR THIS SWAP ONLY within each set of five you are limited to one color family & you should not repeat that color in your second, third, etc. set.  This means if you make only one set they should all be a single color (all blue or all green or all orange).  If you make two sets each set should be one color but the two sets should be different from each other (one set of blue & the other of red or one set of purple & the other of brown  or whatever just so long as set one is one color & set two is a second color....& set three is a third color).  If you send more than FIVE sets (that would be 25 blocks in five different colors) then & only then can you repeat a color you have already used. 

These blocks are due in-house the last Saturday in October, which is October 25th.  This is one of our earlier last Saturday's, making October a short swap month.  I mention this because people have been caught by surprise in the past; the last day of October is a Friday & blocks are due the Saturday BEFORE not the Saturday after (which is in fact the first day of November).

Rosebud (& I don't mean the sled) for August 2014

Every year I try to include a traditional block in the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Groups set of blocks.  Also, a garden themed block.  & a component block, which is a block where each swapper makes one part of a complete block.  This year I am trying to address all of these with just one block, our August block.

The traditional Rosebud block has been popping up all over lately.  I have no idea if it is having a revival or if I just noticed.  You can see a version of the compete Rosebud block on Quilter's Cache right here.  & because I have found sometimes these direct links go all screwy, you can go to the main Quilter's Cache page, go to Quilt Blocks Galore, select the alphabetized list that includes "R", & then select the 12" pattern "Rosebud".  Or last but not least you can type in http://www.quilterscache.com/R/RosebudBlock.html.

As you can probably guess, if the completed block is 12.5" unfinished/12" finished, then 1/4 of the block (the component we are actually swapping) makes a block that is 6.5" unfinished/6" finished.  You can follow the directions on Quilters Cache (making our color changes, described below) right up until you put the four pieces together; we are swapping the individual pieces.

You will need two fabrics:

One of them should be either a solid or read-as-solid (which means that while there might be a small pattern...or even a large one, the fabric is predominantly one color & there are no dramatic changes in from dark to light). This same fabric should be limited to the following range of colors:  pink, maroon, red, orange, gold, peach, yellow, cream OR white.  The reason I say "OR" is almost any fabric with two or more of these colors will not read as solid.  So, just one of these colors please (I am going over this because in the past year there has been a great deal of confusions about the term read-as-solid, to the point where one person submitted a rainbow plaid, which is about as far from read-as-solid as I can imagine.  So now I want to be clear).  This will be the "bud" fabric & we are aiming for traditional rose bud colors. 

The second fabric can be anything with a garden theme, a novelty fabric, or anything at all that says "garden" in a conventional sense.  A floral or leaves or trees or birds or even small repeating wheelbarrows would be acceptable; while I accept that it does have an elegant garden/park area, a small repeating Eiffel Towers- probably not.  I would encourage people to limit themselves to small scale prints, or even medium scale prints.  This is not the best place for a large, dramatic print even if it is a floral.  Also, if you are at all unsure about whether or not the print you have in mind says "garden", please do not use it.  In the event you cannot locate a floral or garden themed fabric (I recognize it is not everyone's cuppa tea), you could use a solid or read-as-solid green or a solid or read-as-solid white.  This is the background.  Yes the background will potentially be a patterned fabric.  It will be OKay, I promise. 

Let me clarify:  if you use a solid or read-as-solid white for your first fabric, please do not use the same or a different solid or read-as-solid white for your second fabric.  I know 99 people reading this are asking them selves who would do that?  I am here to tell you I have seen it done.

From the bud fabric please cut two squares, one of them a 5" square & the other a 3" square.  Pair these with the same from the background fabric & make 1/2-square triangles.  The 5" squares will become two 4.5" 1/2-square triangles (you will need one of these for each block).  The 3" squares will become two 2.5" 1/2-square triangles (you will need both for each block).  Lastly, from the background only cut one strip 6.5" x 2.5". 

I have made 1/2-square triangles before & you can find those directions here, but the technique I use is put the two squares right sides together, one of them marked with a line from corner to corner.  You can stitch 1/4" from either side of the line, cut down the line & then press the unit open.  It is possible you will need to cut the squares down.

Once you have the pieces, please be sure to lay them out & assemble them so the strip is to the left, with the background of the larger 1/2-square triangle & the bud portion of the smaller 1/2-squre triangles butt up against it (see picture below).  This way, the blocks you swap & the blocks you get back for them will all fit together consistently.  I had to rip out two of the eight blocks I made because I put them together backwards.

I realize some will be concerned about the busy background.  I made examples using eight different fabrics, including two different whites, one as the rose bud & the other as the background, a mostly solid green background, two different busy floral backgrounds in two different colorways in the hopes you can see that the strong read-as-solid bud color really will dominate. 

Four of our swap blocks will make one traditional rosebud block, 12.5" unfinished/12" finished.  As always, we swap in sets of FIVE, but you can always send more than one set.  If you do send multiple sets, please be sure no more than two are the same.  As always the blocks are due here the last Saturday of the swap month, in this case that is Saturday August 30th.  & as always we are collecting 6th blocks.  You have the option of sending a 6th block with your five swap blocks; you will get five back & the 6th will go to whichever member of the group asked for them to make a quilt to donate to in her community.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Let's blog about inspiration

I ended up doing a double shot of last month's Block Lotto linky topic, so I will try to corral everything in one post this go-round.  For May the topic is Inspiration.  Hmm.   Well.  I barely know where ideas come from & like Forrest Gump that is all I have to say about that.

Or is it?

It is almost easier to say where it doesn't come from.  Unfortunately, it never -for me, anyhow- comes from learning where other people get their inspiration.  I mean no disrespect, honest, I just find talking about it (or listening anyhow) leaves me with mixed feelings.  I guess it is because inspiration seems to arrive from to places:  ideas are either "all around" or "inside you".  I could be wrong, but is there any place else?  Don't those two kind of cover it?  I'm not saying either of these is wrong, just they are so all encompassing they could not possibly be wrong.  Sort of like saying all food originates with the sun.  Which it does.  But how will that help me with what to a plant here & now for canning next fall?

So I decided to look at a few of my creations & where I think they began.  Turns out the answer is usually "books" which is actually WORSE than the sources I biotched about because books are both all around & inside.   Also books can mean anything.  I spent most of quilting-2013 obsessed with a thing I call bird trap which was more or less a break down to common elements (in a quilt called Bird Trap) & then a build back up of a quilt I saw in a book.  On a not wholly unrelated side note I found myself winding into that again with a different picture of a different quilt in a different book (John Michael Vlach's The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts)....& it turns out to be by Pecolia Warner again. 

Then there are the much easier inspirations from books. I have said before that I consider The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns to be my most valuable quilting tool.  Not just for the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group blocks although it helps there but even when I am just doodling.  Most recently the center block I sent in for the Cotton Robin was from a page in this book that I have had marked as "try this" for years. 

I also have a..let's call it a problem...with more abstract quilt ideas that begin with books.  Specifically right now I have a plastic bin full of fabrics that might do for a Thursday Next themed quilt top. WHAT!?!?!?!  You don't know who Thursday Next is?!?!?!?!?!?  Run don't walk & put your hands on a copy of The Eyre Affair RIGHT NOW. 

But the drop dead truth is these are all in my view, ideas more than inspiration.  Inspiration is somehow less conscious & more translation of unrelated whatever.  For example after years of looking at index cards & boxes of blocks of wood (you wish you had my job yes?), I have noticed my first drafts of quilts are kind of boxy.  Blocky even. 

When I go back through my weeks, it is easy to see how day after day of this:

became this:

For the record that quilt block there is supposed to be a row of books.  My brain is a big old mess.

Monday, May 26, 2014

I got the waiting blues

The deadline for the next Cotton Robin turn around is fast approaching & I am still waiting for my project to arrive.  Yes, yes it is possible it will hit my mailbox tomorrow afternoon.  Maybe not.  Back in....I want to say December but I might be wrong, the Robin Ringmaster polled everyone & said "are you sure?" & everyone said "you betcha - I have time for this over the next four to five months".  & not long after two people dropped out. 

I don' t mean to be unsympathetic.  It is more than possible two people were visited by unforeseen tragedy.  Ten, no make that fifteen years ago I would have accepted this without question.  More or less without question anyhow.  Now of course I have a ringside seat to why people drop in, drop out & generally get pissy when others do not rearrange their own lives to accommodate what is all too often a minor concern (yes there is the occasional cancer scare or stroke-both of these have actually happened but mostly it's "oh that was this month?").  I have also ranted a-plenty about students who think professors are sitting at their desks waiting like empty hand puppets for some bright young thing to walk through the door & engage them.  Aren't you glad I am not in charge of the next generation's education?

I should back up & say this year's exam season was a breeze compared to previous years.  My guess is this newish policy of linking students' current grades to whether or not their bright futures scholarships continue for the next semester/year has resulted in a much more alert classroom.  Yes, there are still breakdowns: the crying jags, the dead grandmothers, the roommates who plot against them, but the easy-going slackers who used to take the short term F until they could repeat the class are gone.  What we never realized was how much of the problem those easy going slackers were:  the calls, the meetings, the parents.  It was quite the time-drain.

So I have built up quite the head of steam & have no place to release it except the Cotton Robin.  Or the Facebook Quilt Block Swap, but I am already barely touching base with many of these people.  I have been so absent, the other group admin is now getting the fun questions like "how many inches in a yard?"  I was not meaning to stick her with this crap but I guess I don't mind someone else knowing what backstage looks like. 

Which brings us to this week-end.  I had hoped to be sorting at least SOME of the quilt blocks due this coming Saturday, but as you may have guessed almost none of them have arrived.  So I dug out an overgrown garden, moved some ginger varieties to a new location (we now have a shade garden in the front yard, not what I was going for but I could not bear to take out the volunteer oak three years ago & now it is rather grand).  We road tested a few zero-turn mowers & in the end A decided to spend the bulk of a day fixing the old one which was just fine with me; I was not looking forward to learning a whole new style of driving. 

On the other hand, a semi-pointless ride-along was probably just the thing for the mood I am in.