This is the time of year to run outside with your camera. I love when the wildflowers bloom. It reminds me that the season is short and back-to-school is coming. If you haven’t been out enjoying these summer days, here is your chance!
No one uses actual cameras any more, they just don’t. I know. Why would you? Everyone is armed with a phone with a camera and instant video. A modern luxury or curse, depending on how you look at it.
I was one of the last people to switch from a film camera to digital, and even then, I would not make the switch until Canon delivered a DSLR. (Digital Single Lens Reflex.)
To me, nothing is more satisfying than the mechanical “click” of a 35 mm.
This changed the world for me. Finally, I could shoot digitally, and get the kind of quality I had grown to love from my Canon. (My first 35mm was given to me as a high school graduation gift by my parents…specifically my Dad, who loved photography, and shot with what is now considered a vintage 35 mm Leica from Germany. Somewhere in this house, I still have that camera. Don’t make me look for it now.)
But the new DSLR meant I could also still live in the world of lenses — zoom, standard, and wide angle.
I recently bought the lens of my dreams.
For those of you who are photo savvy, it’s 180mm, f/3.5 Macro USM.
It lays pixie dust on everything in its frame.
It’s designed for macro photography….so flowers, jewelry, nature.
I ran around the house and started taking pics of ordinary items, watching them become extraordinary.
Now this particular lens does not have image stabilization. That’s $$$$$. So I must use it with a tri-pod. But what fun.
Here’s a little sample. I can’t wait to use it for more. Everything in the world is a small miracle if you look closely enough.
I’m always charmed by the peony tree in my backyard. When I first planted it, it stayed basically bloomless and green for 5 years…an oddity, with it’s twiggy branches and mini-trunk. Very different from your normal peony bush.
Then one year, and I’m not sure why, it developed a bloom. A big, beautiful 7 in. diameter bloom. But just one.
The next year, the plant had 7 giant blooms. I’m not sure what gave it the courage to erupt. More sunshine as I cut away some of the brush? Another nearby plant which helped it to polinate? An adjustment to the soil? No idea.
I don’t know enough about plant dynamics to understand all the factors involved.
But I can enjoy it while it’s here. And every year, it is just stunning. This year, it bloomed on Mother’s Day. Have a happy one.
They’re stunningly gorgeous, reliable, and resist pests. They require very little maintenance and they promote peace.
They don’t feed the hungry, but most world leaders don’t either.
Yes, daffodils should rule the world.
Until the peonies and irises come along, and then the duties will be shared.
But for now, we live in a daffodil world.
I started a couple of years ago with a cheap bag of bulbs from Costco. It produced lovely little yellow daffodils. So the next year, I turned to a catalog and purchased a few more varieties.
Now I am hooked, and these quiet, yet lovely little early risers of spring are enough to give me signs of hope every year. They cautiously poke from the ground when the frost is still in the air, when flurries are still flying, having full trust that the 70 degree weather will appear. And it does.
I didn’t realize it until I tried to describe some of my projects to someone, and all the ones that reflected my own art and not just a pattern designed by someone else, usually included trees.
And if not trees, then at least something that grows in the ground. I can’t tell you what it means, except that I have a deep longing to connect to the earth.
I recently pre-ordered a book that has apparently been wildly popular in Europe: “The Hidden Life of Trees — What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World, ” by Peter Wohlleben.
An article from the NYTimes profiles the German forest ranger’s book.
I’ve always known that the natural world — birds, animals, trees, gardens — have more to teach us than we ever give them credit for. In the woods, I learned to listen, and look…much more than I ever do in my daily busy-ness.
Art is a struggle. We are reaching, reaching, always striving to capture the thing beyond ourselves. I do believe that trees (as well as the rest of nature) try to teach us something. When I break through the barrrier and discover the lesson, I will let you know.
Until then, like most of us, I continue to be a student.
It’s a little frightening, I know.
As I sit here, there’s a giant hole on my sewing table where my machine should be. However, I finally got it together and decided to do the right thing. Every sewing machine needs to be professionally cleaned and maintained on a regular basis…which means at least once a year.
No matter how good you are at caring for your machine (and I am VERY good at caring for my machine), you still need to get it in front of a professional. You will never be able to get the dust, fiber and general build-up out of the inside of that machine by yourself. Don’t try.
Don’t use canned air. It will only force dust into places it doesn’t belong. When you bring the machine in to your dealer, be sure to include your standard foot and stitch plate, so the tech can check both a straight stitch and a zigzag and usually some decorative stitches.
Bring your foot pedal and cord.
And bring anything else you are having a problem with (buttonhole foot, stitch regulator, walking foot.) No problem with those? Don’t bring them. Your dealer does not want to be responsible for any more loose parts than necessary.
Have you purchased a machine in the last 5 years? They get updated. If you aren’t doing it yourself, make sure the tech updates your machine to the current firmware.
I made the decision to bring it in this week, when my family is back at school and work. I also took the week off…which is a little weird because now I cannot sew. I did it deliberately as a way to force myself to clean out the basement. Like many of you, if the sewing machine is in the house, I will come up with a reason to sew.
(Yes, I know I have another smaller machine and a serger just waiting to be used, but with the main machine at the shop, I am more likely to find something else to do.)
That said, while cleaning out the basement, I came across something I picked up at Quilt Market in October.
It’s an inkjet printable cotton poplin fabric. It also comes in cotton twill. For grins, I tested it out with a couple of my photos.
I’ll admit the quality is better than I expected, and captured quite a bit of detail. The fabric then lifts away from the paper backing and can then be used as any other fabric. The poplin is very thin and I would certainly use a woven fusible interfacing on the back.
But if you are in the market for a memory quilt or just want to document your garden, as I do, this is an excellent alternative to products I’ve seen out there.
Happy 2016, Happy Stitching, Happy Clean Machine, and Happy Emptying-Out-Your Basement!
I recently made a road trip to Shipshewana IN…someplace I had wanted to visit for a long time. I was not disappointed.
My trip overlapped the annual Shipshewana Quilt Festival by one day, but to be honest, I avoided the festival. I spend a lot of time with quilters at work. I’ve been to expos and festivals. What I really wanted to do was experience what was truly unique to Shipshewana. (Don’t worry, of course I visited the quilt shops…more to come on that!)
It’s Amish country as you may very well know. I was careful not to take any pictures of them, but they do not mind a pic from a distance or shots of their homes or buggies. ( I asked.) I took several carriage rides and asked many questions. They use cell phones for business and rely on solar panels and wind turbines for electricity although many of them also have propane or natural gas at home.
Spending time in this pastoral setting really reinforced to me the hazards of modern living: speeding cars with impatient and intolerant drivers, over-reliance on technology, and the toll the lack of fresh air and exercise takes on our modern bodies. All Amish, at least those in Indiana, ride bikes or take the carriages. Horses look healthy and are a way of life for them. So many Amish live and work in the town, I really expected them to hide from tourists. But frankly, they are friendly, willing to talk about their lifestyle and very open and gracious…but private where any person or family would be private.
The way they decide whether or not to tolerate a technology is whether it will reinforce or tear down the community. Cars will always be out, because it is a way for anyone to escape community rather than build it. Same with TV’s and computers and phones. But they live in a real world where they have to make a living so cell phones for business or compressors to help milk the cows are tolerated.
I took a tour of an Amish house, sat and ate a home cooked meal with a family, saw them milk cows, toured the farm and was genuinely warmly welcomed. I visited the Menno-Hof, a guided tour museum of the history of the Anabaptists.
This farmhouse actually looks a lot like my grandparents’ farmhouse in Wisconsin.
In this photo, the carriages were parked at a house funeral for a well-known elderly gentleman. What a lovely site. And life goes on.
I’ve been busy. Too busy to write a blog.
And not only too busy, but too boring. And while I don’t mind writing a boring blog, I’m not sure you want to read one. All of that aside, I have also reached the point in the year where all good quilters/gardeners have to make some decisions. Inside or outside. Quilt or garden. Flowers and vegetables or blocks and table runners.
And while I may be able to hold it all in my mind simultaneously, I certainly can’t work on it all simultaneously. So although I have some very ambitious sewing plans and classes lined up, as my farmer grandfather used to say (and do), “Make hay while the sun is shining.” Of course, he made hay in August, but you get the idea.
In the hopes of providing a little temporary entertainment, here’s a gallery of recent flowers from the garden. Most are done blooming, so I’ll be back in the sewing room shortly. In the meantime…it’s summer…let’s all go for a walk!