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