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!
Hey you Mid-Westerners! Grab your friends, hop in a car and spend a day in Wisconsin.
That’s what we did. And we loved it. Now, it didn’t hurt that the day was completely clear, sunny, no humidity and just early-spring lovely.
It also didn’t hurt that the towns were all really vibrant and attractive. And the drive between shops was pastoral and rural, with neat, well-tended farms dotting the landscape.
Of course, we did not cross the entire state. We stayed along the I 90 corridor, and still got to see so much in one day.
The Wisconsin Quilt Shop Hop ends at the end of June. So you still have plenty of time. And if you miss the shop hop? No problem. The stores are still there, just check the hours. Shop Hop hours are consistent throughout the region. 9:30 – 5:30 pm week days, 9:30-4 pm on Saturday. Maybe I’ll run into you in Wisconsin!
Growing up, we always had a little shop, a shop filled with gag gifts, toys, records (The one near my house always carried the top 30 hits of the week on 45.) And candy. Lots and lots of candy.
On this rainy summer afternoon, after a nice brunch, my 13 year old and I stopped at the town candy shop called Rocket Fizz, a place we’d never been before.
The places I hung out were often small and dingy. Parents were almost never to be found.
Here, though, we saw crowds of teens moving in and out…boyfriends and girlfriends, parents and kids, you name it. And the kids working there, were forever re-stocking candy and bottles.
It’s about as crazy full of candy as any place I’d ever seen. But not just your average candy. It’s full of stuff we saw growing up. Nesco wafers and Clark bars and Pixie Stix, not to mention all the usual suspects, like Mike and Ike, and Nerds.
Beyond all the mounds and mounds of candy, they had the most bizarre collection of soda. I can’t remember all the flavors, but I do recall seeing a bottle with Osama bin Laden’s picture and a reference to Seal Team 6. Also one with Stalin on the label…something about The REAL Red Soda.
But candy and soda were not the only points of interest. Here were the gag toys I remember…some of them updated, some of them exactly the same. Chattering teeth, finger puppets, Grow Your Own Therapist…quite a collection.
Hmmm…think I’ll stick with the old-fashioned American chocolate version, thanks.
We left with a bag full of Ring Pops, a Toblerone, and bottle of Virgil’s Root Beer (for me).
I love retail.
And I love being reminded that shopping should be fun. We all need a reason to come out of the house to shop, a reminder that everything doesn’t have to be a big box store with giant aisles.
Here’s to the little shops, the fun ones, with color and humor and inspiration and reasons for me to return. Here’s to the places where no one working or shopping looks weary or bored or defeated, where delight and surprise is around every turn, in every bin, where the unusual can still be found and the silly still has a purpose. Where you can spend only a few bucks and walk away feeling like you found a treasure.
Rocket Fizz, we’ll be back.
When the chaos in my mind and in my sewing room reaches the breaking point, it helps for me to get out and smell the lilacs.
This is my favorite time of the year. The promise of warm weather, the anticipation of wonderful, summery things. Those last few days before the kids are out of school, when expectation runs way ahead of itself. Lemonade and carnivals and rides on golf carts.
Green leafy things and colorful blooming things, and thunderstorms and sprinklers and fresh sweet corn and tomatoes. Farmers markets, and sandals, swimming pools and vacation adventures. Road trips and plane trips and hikes in the woods. Barefoot feet and long conversations on patios, decks and kitchen tables with air conditioners humming.
Trashy novels with no deep meaning, except maybe a lovely or surprisingly sweet ending. Grilled chicken and kabobs and sun on my painted toes. Lawn mowers and bicycles and screen doors. Red, white and blue, or basically white with any color.
Big juicy watermelons and fruit salads for breakfast with a warm croissant. Sunsets and bug spray, sparklers and beach towels. Water slides, hoses, and ice cream trucks.
Parades, tears, laughter, dirt.
Lilacs open the door to it all.
But all is well and all will be well.
The lilacs are in bloom.
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.
For anyone who is a Bernina software user, Designer Plus allows you to do needle punch. All you need is the needle punch accessory (which you can use with or without embroidery).
- Inset the needle punch needles in your needle holder in place of your regular needle.
- Change your stitch plate (there’s a special one for needle punch) and be sure to tell your machine that you made the change.
- Put on the correct needle punch foot. This not only helps to glide over roving and other wool or fabrics, but it also keep your fingers away from those needles. You’ll often want to hold the roving in place to keep your design intact.
- Completely remove your hook system, not just the bobbin. Take everything out, and close the bobbin door.
- Turn off your top and bottom thread sensors.
In the software, you literally just go to the Digitize toolbox, click on the PunchWork icon and digitize a shape. Any shape. And the software will generate one thread color to outline the shape, and then fill it with needle punch. It’s amazingly easy.
I digitized the shape of this tree, measured it out and laid out the roving within the parameters of the shape.
And then I watched the machine do all the needle punch work. Pretty impressive.
However, I did follow along with my fingers positioning and re-positioning the roving to be sure it stayed where I wanted it to be while the needle was punching.
Next, I layered an embroidery design on top. Since I had gone with a tree shape, I was reminded of the tree of life embroidery design in the Sepia Petals collection from OESD. I ended up using the tree background file.
The result was interesting both visually and texturally.
Still exploring my love of wool. It’s freeing and almost unpredictable as an art form or craft. I think that’s why I enjoy it so much.
If you are interested in learning more about Bernina Embroidery Software or needle punch, think about attending your May Software Inspirations at your local Bernina dealer.
You just never know what you’ll be inspired to create!
I’m not really used to working with wool. It really doesn’t behave like cotton. Yet, its rich textures have just been a delight. I love the way thread sinks into it. I love the way thread can sit on top of wool, as well.
It inspires me.
I’m also a fool for anything hand-dyed and much wool is currently hand-dyed. (And not cheap, I might add.)
This project really has been one of texture. I experimented with a number of different Aurifil threads, but kept falling back on a nice 30 weight in different shades of neutrals. It has just enough substance to show up, but is not so thick that it starts to cause problems in the machine.
Here’s a peak at the back side of this project, for those of you who appreciate a look behind the scenes. I think it’s every bit as interesting as the front, maybe even more so.
If you find you are interested in experimenting in wool, there are plenty of places to start.
Need to get the creative fires burning again? I recommend a quiet little rendezvous with a few different shades of wool…ooh la la.
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.