Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Carpenter's Squares

Graphic of quilt design for the quilt class I'm teaching in August:

~Carpenter's Squares Infant Quilt ~

From the class description:
The woven bands of the Carpenter’s Squares create a high graphic design with a modern, a classic, even a Celtic appeal which looks difficult to do, but really isn’t. Once you know the secret of creating consistent T-seams this infant quilt top becomes so simple, beginning quilters can confidently piece it. More experienced quilters will also find this quilt top an excellent opportunity to practice “pinless seaming” a speed construction technique using very few pins.
The "sample quilt" made up to help advertise the class:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Outside the Lines

I started off quilting in straight lines. Two inches apart, respectably thorough but not too dense. Faster on a hot day. Simpler and faster on a project I want to finish quickly. But I got bored.

Like crop circles suddenly appearing in a field of neatly planted straight rows, freehand quilting curlicues suddenly erupted to decorate the last corner of the quilt. I suppose I should know better... never settle for boring rows when arabesques and scroll-work are an option.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Garden News with a Side of Possum

June has tried to be July this year. Ninety degree days and nights that barely cool to comfortable before the sun rises again. Thick with what my sister calls "real air" not the thin "fake air" of summer office buildings. Sudden sweeping thunderstorms that rush in and water the garden just before it wilts or, usually, just after I've turned the hose on to water it myself.
The carrots continue to need thinning, only now they really look like carrots. Crunchy, sweet and orange. The lettuces began to think of bolting and so have been pulled. We simply do not seem to eat enough lettuce to justify as many rows as I planted. Yet mid-August I know I will be wanting nothing but cold salads and complaining that lettuce is not a hot weather crop.
Cucumbers grow fat on the vine. Will I have enough for pickles? Maybe... but I suspect too few will make it all the way from garden to kitchen. Is there anything better than a crisp cuke right off the vine on a summer afternoon? Actually, much as I love cucumbers, I am reminded that my homegrown tomatoes will be ripening soon. A sun-warm juicy tomato eaten barefoot in the backyard is a summer delight I fondly remember and the tomato plants boast small green suggestions of summer pleasures yet to come.
The first crop of green beans has already been consumed. A colander full, snapped and blanched made a perfect main dish with a small side of baked chicken. If you have ever had slenderette green beans fresh from the garden and prepared simply (as in not drowning in gloppy sauces) you will know why we had green beans for desert too. I've trapped and transported five groundhogs already this year but I do not dare set the trap overnight to catch this possum which has moved into the back yard. I do not dare because on any given evening the possum comes accompanied by his friend the skunk. I have smelled, and seen the skunk casually making himself at home under the big pine trees in the side yard.

That's understandable, right? Not wanting to accidentally trap a skunk...

So for now the plan is to set my camera on it's highest flash setting and annoy the possum with flashing light until it doesn't think my yard is such a great place to be.

It's probably just as well I didn't get any chickens yet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the Wheel

Merino and Rambouillet fleeces are supposed to be more difficult to spin so I have not attempted them ... until now. The soft and fluffy blended ball of roving insisted on coming home with me. Really it's been too hot to work with it much but I have gotten some spun up, and I must say it hasn't been as daunting a task as I thought it would. I had some false starts getting my tension and speed comfortable, and I'm not good enough to spin a fine yarn (as in thinner) but I think it's working up quite well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Photo Shoot

I finished piecing another sample top for my Counting House (full) quilt yesterday. And having actually managed to hang onto the Sixpence (infant) quilt I finished a few weeks back --finished quilts have the oddest habit of getting up and walking out my door-- I decided to do a photo shoot this afternoon to get some cover pics for the pattern.

behind the scenes
the view from on high
pattern cover photo option #1
pattern cover photo option #2
Which photo do you like best?
Leave a comment or just vote for your favorite in the poll on the sidebar.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Garden

Despite spotting groundhog number five nosing about my yard I have great hopes for the veg garden still. Cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes are all in bloom and, thus far, untouched by marauding marmota.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

And Then There's the Patio

This is the ugly, awkward, crumbling, raised lump of what-the-heck-were-they-thinking that runs out from the back door/back stoop.
While the guys had the heavy equipment here I asked them to demolish it. Which they did -- in about half an hour.

Already it looks so much better. Okay, yes, there is still a huge crack there in the slab that was underneath. But, properly patched -- maybe a little of that new exterior self-leveling concrete -- and it's not a problem. Especially if you think of it as an underlayment. My piggy bank has already been told to start saving funds for a couple pallets of flagstone.

Friday, June 18, 2010

As Requested #2

More Photos from The Big Project:
straight and level

filled and capped

They come back on Monday to level and grade the dirt properly, point up the cap joints, and put back a side railing for the steps.
I think it's looking good.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

As Requested #1:

More from the world of puppets. This fine fellow is all ready for "Saddleback Ridge" VBS, and for some reason he wanted to be named after the president -- you know, Millard Fillmore 13th President of the United States. [Actually, he really wanted to be named after Pres. Grover Cleveland but when I explained that there was already a very famous puppet named Grover.... ]Wardrobe change, a body, elbows, mending holes... Millard was not in too bad a shape to begin with, and his faux fur wig just needed some careful combing and a touch of hot glue to be good as new.

And for those of you wanting to see "before" pics -- here's a look:
Stripped of her sweatshirt (shown in photo below) but not yet given a body, etc., the as-yet-un-named puppet #5 is the last puppet to repair. (Puppet #6 needs to be completely remade and may not make it to VBS.)
For some reason she went bald right after this picture was taken.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Right Thing To Do

My wee house was built well before current building standards made the use of reinforced retaining walls mandatory. Which is why the hollow cement block wall started curving in a bit. Coincidentally it is also why the wall cracked horribly when hit by a heavy object.

Now, I'm a handy person and my great temptation here was to head to Lowes grab a bag of Quickrete, fill in the damage and parge over the rest. Cosmetic fix. And I had almost talked myself into it. After all it would be much cheaper and I really can't be affording major repairs right now.

But a cosmetic fix would crack again in a few years, the wall would still be hollow and, really, the right thing to do is to rebuild it, with rebar reinforcements and concrete fill and mortar between all the joints -- the works, done right and up to code.

So these are the before shots.

And these are the during.

The contractor agreed with me it needed to be redone, and done right. (Of course he agreed, that's the option that involves hiring a contractor.)
So the wall's come down, and the wall will go back up again. When it's done I don't suppose anyone looking at the back of the house will even realize that I've had anything done to it. But I'll know. I'll know that it's strong and solid. I'll know that it's been done right. I'll know how much it cost to do the right thing and be glad I did, even if no one else ever notices.

Because in the end, doing the right thing... well, it's just the Right thing to do.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Word Of Edification

He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm.
-- Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday Finds: American History

Yes, I know it's Saturday but yesterday, Friday, I was actively engaged in the finding. Up before dawn (and barely home again before 2am) we drove up to Richmond, got lost a little looking for parking, to go to the Homeschooling Convention.

My task was to sort through the diverse array of offerings in American history (Exploration to Victorian) looking for books both accurate and interesting for beginning reader grade levels. I found so many fun books. It was really hard to narrow down the selection. Some were easier to dismiss than others: If I was board reading it how was it supposed to hold the attention of 5-8 year olds? But there were a ton of great ones to choose from -- so much more than 20 years ago.

I am now a huge fan of Jean Fritz's books. I started skimming and then, shamelessly, just outright read George Washington's Breakfast which you might guess, I highly recommend. We also came home with Shh! We're Writing the Constitution and a couple others.

I also discovered Applewood Books they publish several titles I thought were out of print like George Washington's Rules of Civility and Common Sense and -- okay it's not really American history but I want to get one anyway -- The Goops and How to Be Them!!! Anyone who remembers this book will know my joy.

And while we're off topic, sort of, while I was at the convention I also found PlunderChess -- a very cool take on the game of chess.

Back to American History:
I'm a sucker for reproduction parchment paper historical documents and this fold-out timeline was amazing. (And, btw, CBD is actually cheaper than the convention prices on this one. Just saying. Just in case you're as much of a geek as I am and want one for yourself.)

Just a couple more links to share. These from listening to various radio programs and hearing about them: Restore the Tenth. And Repeal the Seventeenth (very enlightening article). State's Rights are an issue once again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Trails to You

This blurry photo is just one of several groundhogs that have been ravishing my garden.

This one had the good fortune to be caught by me (instead of shot by a neighbor with a cap gun). He (or she) has now been transported to an undisclosed location in an underpopulated semi-wild area. This one was calm and seemed to like the havahart trap, it didn't want to be released.

The second one, a few days later, similarly calm and relaxed.

The third one (later that same afternoon) was terrified and bolted from the cage to cower in the nearest cover it could find.

The forth one looked like it had been attacked by a cat or something. It had a large scab on it's nose and a defensive attitude. It clicked it's teeth at me the whole way. Let me tell you 15 miles of teeth alternatively gnawing the cage and threatening me in groundhogese -- not a comfortable car ride for me either. But I learned something from this groundhog. Groundhogs can run like the wind. That forth groundhog took off running as soon as I opened the cage hatch. ZOOM. Ten seconds later he was out of sight round a curve way down the road.

I have set the trap again. I still have yet to catch the Momma groundhog, as also evidenced by my garden which continues to be demolished. Who knew that groundhogs are excessively fond of dill? If I had any left I'd be chopping it down myself to bait the trap with.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Color in Front

Portulaca ... "Moss Rose"

Hot colors ... Hot dry garden spot

Portulaca are perfect for edging some annual color in right next to the sidewalk.

I love the way they pick up the colors of the real roses ("Tropical Sunset" and "Climbing Joseph's Coat") at the back of the bed and echo the planter of cheerful orange pansies.

Yellows ... Pinks ... Oranges ... Reds

Good thing the house is neutral colors. :D

Saturday, June 5, 2010

VBS Puppets

The children's church puppets, packed away in a suitcase for nearly a decade, aren't so bad really. Handmade in, I'm guessing, the 1980s. They all boasted "stylish" sweatshirts over the formless turtlenecks they called bodies and (I kid you not) socks for faces. At some point someone had taken it upon themselves to brush the hair -- that curly nylon fluff "angel hair" stuff -- which did not turn out well. But they have "good bones."

The cast of six puppets went home with me to see what I could salvage for the upcoming western themed Vacation Bible School. Once the sweatshirts are removed, the arms properly sewn shut, and a few holes mended, it's all about the hair. Well, okay hair and bodies. They are all getting foam bodies inserted into their shapeless turtlenecks. But the hair is what you notice.

Esther, now sporting a removable orange bandanna, decided to remain a blond. So with a little of that crazy "fur" yarn her wig was knitted, fringed on one edge for bangs, and hot glued down. Two pigtails were tucked under the edges and hot glued in place as well. As you can see, Esther is thrilled with the new look.

Next up was a square jawed brunette....

Red is happy with his makeover too. He never felt right as a brunette and has always wanted to grow a beard, says it makes him feel more Biblical.

I told him it also made him more gold-miner-howdy-there-pardner-yippie-i-yi-o-ol'timer. Very versatile and very fun. Naturally, Red claimed the red bandanna for the upcoming event.

Two puppets down four more to go.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Finds

Another organic cotton fabric source Cloud Nine Fabrics.

A great tutorial on Granny Squares from Lucy at Attic24.

And something funny.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


In the damp woods at my parent's house mushrooms are sprouting up in abundance. They squeeze together, pushing and shoving, bending and rumpling, creating layers of delicate froth like wild orange tulle.