Quiet moments at our bird feeders today.
Most everything is planted in the garden now. My job going forward will be mostly to weed and to water and to wait. Some of the seeds will not sprout. Some of the plants will whither and fade. (This is the last year I’m trying rhubarb. For 3 years now, I have planted and watered and not had anything come back the next year. Might have to do some reading about that.)
Bugs will eat the cucumber leaves to within an inch of survival. Japanese beetles will descend on the raspberries mid-summer and I will spend hours picking them off and dropping them into soapy water. Rain will not fall enough. Rain will flood. White butterflies will lay eggs that turn into worms that will eat the cabbage and cauliflower. And the weeds will take every opportunity to hog the nutrients from the soil and suffocate the vegetables and fruits.
Still, I cannot walk away. It’s hard for me to imagine an act more basic than growing my own food. In the early morning the birds chirp overhead. The air is fresh. Dew on the grass seems like a twinkle of paradise.
One morning a red-tailed hawk perched so close to me, I could almost hear her breathe. She glanced casually at me and hopped over to the ground squirrel hole. She cocked her head comically and peered inside. Squirrels are hiding deep today. With a final glance at me, she lifted herself back off the ground and flew back to her nest. Maybe later.
Another evening, no one was around, as I puttered and weeded. The skies were a heavy gray and the air was thick. Silence enveloped me. The raspberry branches reached for me in the breeze. I stood upright and looked to the skies. At that very moment a lone sandhill crane flew overhead. As it passed directly over me it made several warning cries. “Storm!! Seek shelter!!” was what I heard from the crane, though at the time, no words formed in my head. It was simple instinct. A moment later I saw the lightening in the distance. By that time I was already packed to go back home. Minutes after arriving a storm blew in that knocked down trees and cut electricity, causing hail and torrents of wind and rain.
I have no doubt the crane was communicating. I have no doubt I got the message.
Maybe nature communicates with us all the time. Maybe we’re not always listening. Maybe listening to the birds is good for us.
As I wait for this years’ peonies to find the courage to rise and bloom, I am inspired by a picture of last years’, and so I pulled out some wool, some roving and decided to needle punch a bouquet of peonies. If you are not familiar with needle punch, it is the process of using needles to insert colored fabric into another fabric. The process of punching the roving into the wool actually creates a whole new fabric because both fabrics become one.
Here’s an example of some roving, which is essentially semi-processed wool or cotton fibers.
Using special needles on a machine and a needle punch foot, you can use your sewing machine to “punch ” the roving down into the wool fabric below. You’re not using any thread, and if you have thread sensors on your machine, you’ll want to turn them off. After that, the process is a lot like painting with watercolor, or more precisely, like charcoal drawing, using the different colors of the roving to create shading, shapes and color.
My intent was to capture the carefree way the flowers moved and “relaxed” into the group. I always want to loosen my style. Sometimes my art is uptight. One of the reasons I enjoy working with fiber over paint is the amount of control that one must give up to the medium. That’s exciting and unpredictable. (Some people love precision and this may be frustrating for you.)
After punching out the basic shapes, just add some background texture.
As the final touch, add topstitching to the whole arrangement. This brings a bit of dimension, with a “pen and ink” feel. All of this is very textural. Interesting to look at, interesting to touch.
Anyone can do this with a little inspiration, some wool, and some roving. You can purchase hand needle punch kits at any craft store and I’m sure most sewing machine manufacturers have some form of needle punch accessory. (Bernina does, for certain!) After that, the sky’s the limit.
Machine tip: Be sure to clean out your sewing machine really well after doing needle punch.
Now get out there and have fun!!
For those of you who don’t write your own blog, I want to share something. First, a little background. Apparently, when one writes a blog , it is customary to visit other blogs, write comments, and include your own website in the hopes of receiving reciprocal visits. However, humans, being resourceful yet lazy creatures, have figured out a way to visit other sites without ACTUALLY visiting them. They create little scripts called “bots”, short for robots.
Now, the web is full of “bots” and “spiders” which crawl over the internet to do real work…many of them help to organize search content. But the ones I’m particularly fascinated by are the ones that visit websites and blogs…my own, in particular.
After I received the first few comments, I began collecting them– a weird hobby, I guess. Many of them are from drug peddlers, spam generators, phishers, internet creeps, and those are generally not included here. But others are just plain crazy or silly and just short of being human in their own way. And who knows? Maybe some of them were actually written by humans. But I doubt it.
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Everybody knows quilting has taken a turn.
When I was growing up, even into mid-life, there simply wasn’t anything modern about quilting.
Quilting was traditional.
I inherited stacks of quilting books from my mother-in-law, all of them filled to the brim with beautiful designs pieced from blocks with special names, and techniques passed down from generation to generation. When you learned to quilt, you started with blocks that were already well-known: Log Cabin, Nine Patch, Flying Geese, Dresdan Plate, Drunkard’s Path (!), and don’t forget Sun Bonnet Sue.
To this day, I am fascinated by my mother-in-law’s quilts: her meticulous piecing, her hand-quilting and attention to detail, the HOURS and HOURS she must have put into many of them. They seemed unattainable to me, hallmarks of patience and perfection, dedication and perseverance.
Thank heavens, today’s designers have set in motion a quilting rennaissance. They’ve blown the lid off the quilting world and set new standards for what perfection looks like.
It’s fun. It’s colorful.
And it’s original. Of course, we all still need to learn technique. And good design never changes. It has an eye candy appeal that defies description. Young graphic artists have made their way into the world of sewing and quilting and given it new life.
Years before the latest “modern” quilt trend seemed everywhere, I created this sample for the store. Such a simple design, taken from “The Modern Quilt Workshop” by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. The book was published in 2005, far ahead of its time. Yet it paved the way for the kinds of things we are seeing out there now. Simple graphics, free form quilting, negative space, and color color color.
I love that traditional quilting is still as popular as it has always been. I love even more that quilting has opened up to new people who are using fabric and design in unusual ways. And most of all, I love that people seem to be making things, spending time thinking and constructing and using their imaginations and their hands.
Is that modern?
Whew. I don’t think I’d make another raincoat anytime soon . While the vinyl fabric sewed up nicely, bulky seams were difficult. The sticky vinyl would grab hold of my needle and pull it out of the machine.
I switched to a titanium-coated needle and same thing. It got to be a bit of a wrestling match.
In general, I’m pleased with the result. More than that, I’m pleased that it is done.
I may go back and tweak a thing or two. Doesn’t everyone?
Happy Easter, friends.
In almost any culture, crane sightings are meaningful. They are signs of joy, life, wisdom, beauty, elegance, and grace.
My family drove out to see the Great Crane Migration. In case you are not familiar, every year between mid-February and mid-April, 80% of North America’s Sandhill cranes come to eat and bulk up in a 50 mile span of the Platte River in central Nebraska. The area is estimated to feed around 500,000 cranes. This year, the experts thought there were even more than that.
Jane Goodall rated it as one of her top ten nature attractions in the world.
The birds spend every night in shallow water – the Platte River. It offers them protection because any predator could be heard splashing as it approaches. But during the day, the cranes spread out to all the local farmer’s fields. They will gain approximately 32% of their body weight in preparation for the rest of their journey. Eventually, the cranes will spread out over North America, including arctic Canada and Alaska and some will travel as far as Siberia to roost and lay eggs. The young will grow to full size in the summer and travel the whole distance back with their parents in September. Like many birds, cranes mate for life.
We spent time in a bird blind, waking at 4:30 am. This experience itself is almost supernatural. We awoke in the dark and joined others at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary. It was 17 degrees outside with a straight 20 mph wind. The sanctuary has no lights outside, as that might disturb the birds. The guides walk you down the half mile to the river in pitch blackness, with an occasional red light so no one falls. Everyone must silently enter the blind making as little noise as possible.
Unfortunately, on our day, someone the night before had used a flash camera and so the birds got spooked and were a bit of a distance from the blind.
But as dawn approached, the birds began to stir. The sound is incredible. As they take flight, their sheer numbers are nothing short of amazing.
During the day, you really see them everywhere. In the sky, in the fields. The behavior is fascinating, as they never seem to change. This has been going on for 600 years, maybe more.
If you’d like to see them yourself, visit http://www.ustream.tv/channel/rowe-sanctuary-s-crane-cam
Watch the crane cam around 7-8 pm at night as they gather to rest, or 7-8am in the morning as they take off for the fields. You get a real feel for the auditory experience as well.
The lesson for me is to recognize our role in nature. We belong, but we don’t own. We can celebrate it, but never control it. Peaceful harmony is the goal. And it only took 500,000 cranes to remind me.
Like most of you, time is the culprit on all projects. And with this one in particular, I take one step forward and one step back. Learning curves:
–Patterns can be perfect. Patterns can be imperfect. It’s not always easy to get into the head of the designer.
–The Teflon foot is great on vinyl-covered fabric. Regular feet work even better as long as I’m working with right sides together. A big hangup at that point is the vinyl-covered seam allowance running against the bottom of the machine. It sticks. Wishing someone would invent a teflon stitch plate.
–The zipper foot with dual feed is almost as good as it gets for attaching piping.
–Don’t rush. It’s miserable to backtrack.
It’s looking more like it might actually become a coat. All that’s left is to attach the hood, sew the lining and coat together, then finish up the hems and topstitching. Still a lot of work but I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Just as anticipated, the answer to the sleeve dilemma appeared when I least expected it…in the form of a petite white-haired woman who walked into the store.
We chatted for awhile, and I invited her to join some other customers in having a little cookie treat in the back classroom. I sat down with a cookie myself, and almost thinking aloud, I mentioned the “speed bump” I had run into using vinyl-covered fabric. It’s actually a dream to work with. It sews and folds and presses just fine (with a pressing cloth). But vinyl-covered fabric doesn’t have a lot of “give”.
When setting the sleeves on the muslin and on the lining, I had no trouble because I could ease the fabric. Not so with this. So I ended up with two sleeves that appeared to be too big for the armhole.
The petite woman looked at me. “Why don’t you undo the sleeve seam and the side seam, attach the sleeve, and then sew up the sleeve seam and down the side?”
I looked at her, disassembling and reassembling the coat in my mind. It was an obvious solution – and I never would have thought of it. “That just might work…” I said slowly.
“Mmm-Hmmm,” she said, taking another bite of cookie. “I used to do a lot of garment sewing, and you know, you can forget about pattern instructions.” She waved her hand dismissively, with a twinkle in her eye.
The next day I went back to work on the project, and tried what she suggested. Voila! Two (almost) perfectly set sleeves.
And a special shout out to all the women who help other women every day. You make the rockin’ world go ’round!
Even though I don’t have much time to work, I’ve been diligent. At this point, I have completed the lining and facings, as well as the hood.
So far, so good. I also got most of the piping created, as shown below.
Yesterday, I started on the body assembly. I had to stop last night because no matter what I did, I could not get the sleeves to fit the bodice. I finally put down the work and went to bed. Unfortunately, it will be a few days before I can get back to it. I’ll have to think about what is happening with the sleeves and see what adjustments can be made.
Never fear. At this point, it’s just frustration. I haven’t stitched a bit of the sleeves, so no “unsewing” yet, just pinning. A day or two from now, it will all become clear. So I will wait until the project is ready to advance. I suppose it’s good practice–learning when to step back, take a break, and wait.
I’m not good at stepping back or waiting. I’m good at barreling through. So for now, I will let the rain coat take the lead. I will let it rest. And when we’re both fresh, we’ll pick up where we left off, and the rest will be easy.