My Obsession with Trees

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.

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Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

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Have Your Sewing Machine Cleaned!

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.

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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.

flowersonfabric1flowersonfabric2I’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!

 

 

Shipshewana Dreamin’ – Part 1

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!)

rearviewmirrorIt’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.

farmhouse1garden1Look at this garden!  Every farm had a beautifully tended garden like this…not a weed in sight. Ever.

shipshewana1The town of Shipshewana is charming by any standards, with local restaurants and shops. I’ll give a rundown of some of the quilt shops in the next post.

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.

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Quilting vs. Gardening: It Must Be June

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!

Improv and More

I have started working on an improvisational quilt.

Basically , it means I start sewing before I have any idea what I’m creating. For anyone who knows me, this way of doing things is right up my alley.  I just purchased this book, “An Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters” by Sheri Lynn Wood.

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Naturally, I flipped through the book and then started without so much as reading a paragraph.  I promise I will go back and read. The book looks great.  I just was inspired by the word “improv” and began immediately.

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Here’s a sneak peak and to be honest , I don’t know how I will complete it. Just know that it’s a gift, so I don’t want to divulge the whole quilt til it’s been given away.  At that point, it’s done and there can be no regrets or turning back.  For now, it’s simply a work in progress.

In machine embroidery, I am preparing to teach a Software Inspirations class based on a tutorial from Sylvain Bergeron, Bernina educator.  In it, we learn to create textile fabric using embroidery…like argyle.

argyle1This is done completely in software, then stitched out as machine embroidery.  It can now be cut up and used as a handbag piece, or in a quilt, or basically used as any other fabric.  Would be fun to do a small series of these in different shades and then put them together as a quilt or table runner.  Although I’m sure this image looks black and white, the thread used in the squares is actually a mauve with white lines, on Moda’s black grunge fabric.

That being said, like many sewists, I spend a lot of time in the garden in the spring, head back into the sewing room when it rains or as the weather gets too warm and buggy to be hanging around outside.  I leave you with a few lovely pics from around the area this past couple of weeks.  The earth is stunning.

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Peony tree

Wild  phlox

Wild phlox

Crabapple tree

Crabapple tree

Warble Me Now, for Joy of Lilac Time

lilacs1by Walt Whitman

WARBLE me now, for joy of Lilac-time,
Sort me, O tongue and lips, for Nature’s sake, and sweet life’s sake,
Souvenirs of earliest summer—birds’ eggs, and the first berries;
Gather the welcome signs (as children, with pebbles, or stringing shells);
Put in April and May—the hylas croaking in the ponds—the elastic air,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird, and darting swallow—nor forget the high-hole flashing his golden
wings,
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor,
Spiritual, airy insects, humming on gossamer wings,
Shimmer of waters, with fish in them—the cerulean above;
All that is jocund and sparkling—the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days, and the sugar-making;
The robin, where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building the nest of his mate;
The melted snow of March—the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts;
—For spring-time is here! is here! and what is this in it and from it?
Thou, Soul, unloosen’d—the restlessness after I know not what;
Come! let us lag here no longer—let us be up and away!
O for another world! O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape—to sail forth, as in a ship!
To glide with thee, O Soul, o’er all, in all, as a ship o’er the waters!
—Gathering these hints, these preludes—the blue sky, the grass, the morning
drops of dew;
(With additional songs—every spring will I now strike up additional songs,
Nor ever again forget, these tender days, the chants of Death as well as Life;)
The lilac-scent, the bushes, and the dark-green, heart-shaped leaves,
Wood violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence,
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere,
To tally, drench’d with them, tested by them,
Cities and artificial life, and all their sights and scenes,
My mind henceforth, and all its meditations—my recitatives,
My land, my age, my race, for once to serve, in songs,
(Sprouts, tokens ever of death indeed the same as life,)
To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of Lilac-time.

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