Friday, January 30, 2015

Free-motion Faux Bois / Woodgrain Quilting

On the machine right now for my favorite free-motion design--faux bois or wood grain.
Faux bois dates back to Revolutionary war times and beyond, and enjoys a special place in the quilting-pattern repertoire as one that can transition easily between traditional and modern quilts.

This top came about as the result of an error in a magazine pattern that left me with hundreds of unusable half-square triangles.

Well, not unusable for long. I did some fussy-cutting on these very dignified roosters from the stash and managed to get together a quilt top that is, I think, better than the one originally planned. 

I think I will try some twin-needle quilting on the blocks themselves, so as not to distract from the interest of the wood grain, since I planned the extra-wide lattice sashing specifically with the wood grain quilting in mind.

Hoping to have this and a couple of others ready for binding soon!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Adventures of Robin and Jay: Crayons vs. Markers

Introducing Robin and Jay in their new original true-life comics!
Enjoy along with us!
As for the crayons vs. markers debate, I think the jury is still out on this one.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Color Mondays: Vintage Seed Catalog Vegetables

I love papercrafts of all kinds, as evidenced by my first blog, Kitchen Table Crafter.  Eventually I was not able to keep up with that blog, Design Team schedules, two kids (at that time under 3) and my papercrafts business, so it eventually lapsed into retirement.  I still find plenty of inspiration in paper though, especially vintage ads like this delightful collection of farm-fresh dairy and eggs:

Some of my all-time favorites are from vintage seed company catalogues, which feature wonderful examples of botanical illustration--a painting discipline I've tried many times, following the example of my artist grandmother and botanist mother.

This week and for the next few weeks leading up to peak planting season, the current seed catalogs are open on my kitchen table along with garden plan sketches galore.  Meanwhile, I'll let the vintage catalog artists speak for themselves for this week's Color Monday over at Porch Swing Quilts:

Can you tell I'm eager for the ground to thaw already?
Happy creating to all, whatever your medium may be.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Quilt Finish: World Map

This panel was just too good to pass up. As a home school family we take every opportunity to make our living environment a playful and responsible learning environment.  We shy away from battery operated toys in favor of creative learning play and hands-on involvement in practical life skills.  The more Robin & Jay are exposed to, the more they absorb.

With this simple quilt we can take imaginary trips, put animals on their correct continents, discuss north and south, languages spoken, identify the birthplaces of our favorite ethnic music, watch documentaries on certain regions... The ideas just go on and on. For just $6 for the panel and an hour and a half of my time, I really think this map will be a fun addition to our daily learning games.

 Robin himself asked if he could help sew it.  He has been very careful with his tapestry needle so far, so we'll see if he's ready for the real thing yet.  Something tells me he won't have the patience for helping to bind the whole thing, but with plenty of supervision I'm happy to let him try.

Round the world in just over 80 minutes over here this afternoon!

Best to all, always.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quilt Finish: Lavender Rows

A good friend is having her baby girl soon. I had another quilt ready in aqua and soft orange, but when I learned that the nursery color scheme is lavender and light green, I did a last-minute improv job.

I made it larger than the usual baby quilt at 49" x 47".

I did a little piecing on the back edges.

Hoping it helps mother and soon-to-be daughter feel very comfortable and calm in the months and years ahead.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Crepe Myrtle Move

And there it is! We worked in some amendments (10-10-10, super phosphate) and compost and the guys helped me cover it over.  A little further into the season I plan on a load of pine straw, but for now it will be fine.

I worked in a lot of last year's compost in the hole left where the myrtle used to be.  Opening up so much new sunny garden space does make me a little giddy with possibilities.

I think I may start this new plot with a crop of early teff or barley, followed up by a late summer corn.  Then again, it would also be great for some winter squash.  I'm setting in some cinder blocks around the edges for weed control and path clarity, but I wound up three short.  I hate to pay for new ones, so I'll just wait until I find a few more to salvage here and there.

What little troopers these guys are.  They shoveled hard, had fun, and smooshed every grub.  We even found a cicada still in its underground shell, but put it back before I got a picture.  These two have earned a park outing for sure.  Tomorrow the weather will turn again, reminding us it is still January, after all.

I'm glad we got this tree moved during such a perfect window of opportunity.

The coming rain will help the tree, and our new plot will have time to compost and settle for a few more weeks.  I'll give it a little time, but those strawberry plants I mentioned earlier will go around the base, along with some perennials (still to be determined).

Starting tomorrow I will be more than ready for some less backbreaking projects, though.  
Preferably involving fabric.

For now, keep calm and shovel on!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Quilt Finish: Tucson Tracks Pattern AND...

As I come to think of it, this was my first pieced quilt.  Technically.  Why? Because I actually followed the instructions for the duration of the whole project. Whew!

 I made up for it later, and true to form I have quite a few improv quilt tops ready and waiting to be finished.

 Following a pattern has never been my strong suit.  And don't even get me started on recipes, because I may be a lost cause when it comes to that NEED to *just tweak it a little teeny tiny bit*. But, after this finish I suppose I'm feeling a little more inclined.  Maybe this was good for self-discipline.

 Robin and Jay love this one and were very excited to see fabrics that I also used in each of their bedquilts.

I backed this one in turquoise flannel. It has proven so free-motion friendly and has a perfect comfortable feel.


Last but not least, look out, because around here we know exactly how to play with scraps!


 Robin, the veggie-loving reader, builder, climber and engineer.

And the dashing blue Jay: he's fast, he's helpful, and he's disarmingly, charmingly clever.

Look for these two superguys soon in their very own original comics.  The fun just continues!

On to another exciting day,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Color Mondays: Soothing Succulents Colorway

After a 2-week bout with flu (and who hasn't dealt with it this year?), I'm more in the mood for something soothing as Color Monday rolls around.  Usually cool colors I prefer to wear, as when sewing a dress or skirt.  But for some reason they just do not figure frequently in my quilting, tending as I do toward warm browns and greens (surprise, surprise!).  Perhaps that will change, though, since today these lovely succulents really hit the spot for me:
The plant is hen-and-chicks.  We saw lots of different varieties of these beautiful succulents flourishing during our time in Texas.  I'm told they have herbal health benefits, which I'll have to look into another time.  If I find out they are a cure-all for flu, I might just have to head-smack in hindsight.
Happy thoughts for a wonderful week ahead!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Garden Cleanup, Part 1

The obnoxious weather finally lifted yesterday, allowing us some great time
together outside in the sunshine for garden cleanup.
DH and the boys (here named Robin and Jay, and scheduled to make their special debut very soon)
dug a nice hole in the side yard for transplanting a crepe myrtle
that's in the way of productive garden space in the back. 
I'll be sad to lose the microclimate it created come July and August, but after working around it for a whole season I decided a move is in both our best interests.
The plan is to make the crepe myrtle a foundation plant for a permaculture bed on the side that requires a lot less maintenance from me.  Strawberries and some asparagus in large pots are looking really attractive for that reason.  I traded Etsy help with another local gardener who has 20+ strawberry plants waiting for me whenever I am ready.  I'm all for bartering--especially where plants and/or fabric are involved.
Meanwhile, I went and finally got my own wheelbarrow yesterday--6 cubic feet and a NON-FLAT TIRE!  I can't wait to put this baby to work because, let's be honest: If you skimp on garden tools, you wind up making it up in Ibuprofen.
So, about that transplanting hole.  These kids sure love dirt--and I mean
A LOT...

Still, there's something primal and satisfying about making a great big hole in the ground.  They were all three happy guys.  Tomorrow we will begin soil conditioning and I'll turn the compost again.
Looking through my photos, I realized that this late winter garden cleanup on bluebird days has been a favorite family tradition for a long time.  Children naturally make a game of what they see their grown-ups doing, and when that is yard-work and cleaning, I find they are often eager to try.
Here are some old photos of Robin, before we had even put in the garden beds.  See how much they grow after only a few seasons!

Ready, set, dig!
Best wishes for a happy week ahead,

Monday, January 12, 2015

Color Mondays Palettes

The ever-delightful Jennie has a fantastic (and addictive) palette-building party going every Monday at Porch Swing Quilts.
I am delighted at last to join in...
...even though I was a little slow to get here:
But I'd better not get too carried away.  Kona isn't on sale locally at the moment.

Midwinter Browns Blues

It's the middle of bleak midwinter here, and after a week of truly frozen ground the last of my winter crops are all but gone.  Once the cold and flu season lifts from our little corner, I'm hoping to get out and save what I can of the kohlrabi, collards, carrots and other hardy survivors.  Every time I bundle up to take out the compost, I give them my regards and heartfelt respect.
For the most part though, I'm looking out and dreaming of how it was only a few months ago:
A lush, green haven in mid-August, when nearly everything grew over my head and the kids played daily in our own private jungle.
And then I have to remind myself, after all the earth needs awhile to relax, too.  The garden beds are brown and forlorn in comparison to the abundance of September, but they are taking a needed break so that we can be ready to start growing together again in spring.  These blues will pass.
Having found a fantastic winter garden resource through one of my favorite seed suppliers, Bountiful Gardens, I'd like to share for future reference:  Winter Gardening Information Sheet
In the meantime, I'll look over my seed catalogs for the hundredth time, and get to work on a stack of quilt tops that really need to be finished before some friends welcome their new arrivals.
So... what do you do to beat the midwinter gardener's blues?


A Gardener's Thread...

A gardener's thread...
A line of thought, a spool of ideas, intuition or consciousness.
A discussion thread, an interwoven thread, a tie that binds together.
A thread that passes in and out, shuttles back and forth on the loom of life to form a fabric of reality.
The one line that matters, the link that tries to bring it all together
The line that has to hold
The fibers of little moments that draw life into place and sometimes pull it taut,
The connection between the created thing and the maker,
the delicate passing that reminds one what one really is,
what one is destined to become.
This is one gardener's humble thread.