The View from 10,000 Feet

twojackI went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain.
There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line.
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

–Indigo Girls

Sometimes you need a little perspective.  Recently, my family and I traveled to the Canadian Rockies to see the mountains and the wildlife, and to take some pictures.

In middle age, I had forgotten to take into account the altitude and the toll it would take on our bodies.  So that was a bit of a shock to get used to…harder to breathe and exercise, less stamina.  For people who normally live at 500 ft. sea level, a week at 5000 feet was a bit rough. It’s subtle however.  You don’t really feel anything at first, it kind of sneaks up on you.  And we spent  a lot of time going up and down mountains as well, so we were much higher than 5000 feet at many times.

But the thing that stayed with me the most was the lovely quiet.  Standing at the top of a mountain, I had a moment, and one that will stay with me for a long time.  The trees and the mountains, so majestic, were perfectly natural in their environment.  The wildlife, so real and unfettered in its surroundings, was also natural.  The only thing for as far as I could see, that was not comfortable and completely natural in this environment, were humans.

We are the disturbers.

In order for us to be there, we have to change the environment.  We have to chop the trees and move the mountains for our roads and buildings.  We tear up the earth for ski runs and paved trails.  We carve a way so that more of us can come through and enjoy the scenery.  And the more of us that are in any given place, the further everything gets from its natural state.

A little depressing.

In fairness, Parks Canada does a remarkable job in the National Forests to protect everything.  In fact, they would much rather scare off the humans than disturb a bear doing its bear thing.  I think that’s admirable. I think it’s necessary.  Because it seems to me that we are the ones who can cause the problems. We are the ones that disturb the balance of nature. We are the ones who interfere, who travel with all our RV’s and campers and rental cars.  We are the ones purchasing souvenirs, bringing our lunches into campgrounds, making garbage. A bear on the side of the road can cause a traffic jam for half a mile, with people jumping out of their cars trying to get a picture, creeping right up to the animal with their cars, crowding, crowding, crowding.

Don’t get me wrong. We did the same thing.  Are you kidding?  Of course we stopped to see a bear eating along the roadside.  But we were not part of the crowd that was walking up to a wild animal.

Truly, it was  an amazing trip with a view that we could not imagine, being from the flatlands of the midwest. But it really pointed out to me how uncomfortable and intrusive we humans can be.  It’s good to see that the world holds vast places where we are small and insignificant. And that the wildness and the wilderness do just fine without us.

I’m adding a gallery of some of our pics:

Lilacs and Chaos

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.

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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.

Sewing room chaosMy sewing room is in chaos.  I have at least 3-4 projects running simultaneously.

But all is well and all will be well.

The lilacs are in bloom.

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Daffodils Should Rule the World

daffodils6

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.

dafodils2daffofils3daffodils4daffodils5daffodils long shotBut look out daffodils, the hostas are not far behind, and I hear they are willing to redefine world order.  They are fresh and green and itching to unfurl.  Uh oh. Peace out.

hosta

 

 

Needle Punch Felting with Machine Embroidery

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I’ve been playing with wool lately, and was reminded by the upcoming Bernina Inspirations class, that I can do needle punch using my machine embroidery.

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).

needle punch toolWhen you set up your machine for needle punch, you need to do a few things:

  • 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.

needle punch feltingIn 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!

needle punch felting 3

My Love Affair (with wool!)

wool trees 5I’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.)

wool trees1This 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.

wool trees 2I wanted this to feel a lot like a walk in the woods near the house. Twisty, gnarly branches — barren, waiting for spring.

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.

wool trees backI have done some projects with wool and roving before. This floral below was one of my favorites. Something about wool is much more free-form for me than rigid piecing in cotton.

You can read more about the roving project here.

If you find you are interested in experimenting in wool, there are plenty of places to start.

Wooly Lady has joyful patterns and plenty of hand-dyed wool.

Sue Spargo also has a lot of hand-dyed fabric and beautiful threads for hand embroidery.

Need to get the creative fires burning again? I recommend a quiet little rendezvous with a few different shades of wool…ooh la la.

Final piece.

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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How Would You Fix This?

Rummaging through my closets this week I came across an embroidery project I worked on back in high school…yes high school.  I think it was for an art class.  It’s actually pretty big, 18 x 24 I would guess, with a large wood frame.

high schoolHave to love the signature.

carolAt any rate, back in the day that I stretched and framed this thing, I obviously had no stabilizer behind it.

You can see that after moving, I don’t know, 5 or 6 times since high school, somewhere along the line I managed to poke a small hole through the muslin.

the holeThe weave on this fabric is amazingly loose.  I thought about just adding another tree.  However, now that it’s stretched on a frame, it’s very difficult to embroider–but probably not impossible.

I hate to just give up on it, as the details are interesting.

close up2stitchesI’m open to suggestions.

I think the best I can do is to finish the edges of the tear with Fray-Check, and then somehow add another tree on top of the hole.

It may not be perfect, but, hey, after 40 years (or 50 or 60), how many of us are?

Missouri Star Quilt Company Birthday Bash

Guess where I was last weekend?  Guess where we brought 43 of our best friends?

Our shop organized a bus trip to Missouri Star Quilt Company and it just happened to be the weekend of their 7th Birthday Bash!  What a wonderful time we had — wonderful weather, great people and fabric, fabric, fabric!

Missouri Star Quilt companyAs you can see, the tiny town of Hamilton was hoppin’ the weekend we were there!  MSQC sponsored events like layer cake walks, a Pinata (filled with Aurifil thread, no less!  If you want to see quilters really go at it, dangle some Aurifil in front of them!)

Local vendors were out, with the local Lions Club fixing hot dogs and sandwiches on the grill, antique shops and 77 cent fatquarters, which MSQC kept filled to the brim!

They actually have 6 quilt shops in town, and if you’re thinking about making the trip, I will give you some tips along the way!  Here are the six quilt shops:

  1. Main Shop, has modern fabric, notions etc.
  2.  Mercantile has reproduction.
  3. Sew Seasonal had, you guessed it, seasonal fabric…every holiday you can imagine.
  4. Novelty. A whole shop of it.
  5. Solids and modern: think chevron fabric, Moda bella solids, Robert Kaufman, Stonehenge, etc.
  6. And the JCPenney shop carried wool, Snuggle, and other basics, as I recall.

We had a trunk show with Jenny Doan, host of MSQC tutorials. And may we just add that she is just as delightful in person as she is in the tutorials.  No difference!

msqc1IMG_4310She does the show with her husband, and the two of them are such a great partnership!

msqc3Some teensy little tidbits from Jenny:  this turkey MAY appear in an upcoming pattern and tutorial.

She also mentioned that they will soon be opening another 6 stores!  (Likely within the next month or so! (The new stores will include a machine shop, a wool specialty shop and one store with all wideback fabric!)

My tips for making this trip:

  1.  You won’t find any hotels in Hamilton, but you could consider their retreat center.  For us, the sleeping arrangements were a little too cozy and dorm-like for a bus load of folks. And the retreat center only holds a maximum of something like 37 people?  Not sure about that number, but not enough for us.  I HIGHLY recommend (and so does MSQC) GuestHouse Acorn Inn in Cameron, about 10 minutes away. It was clean and comfortable and the breakfast was outstanding…real eggs!  If you have a group, call the manager ahead of time to make arrangements, they are very accommodating.

2.  If you have a large group, by all means, set up a trunk show with Jenny…she’s a hoot and it’s wonderful!  Yes, there is a fee, but well worth it.  Call the store and tell them you’d like a trunk show.  They will put you in contact with the right person.

3.  Make arrangements for your group to have a meal at Blue Sage Restaurant in town. No kidding. Just do it. The food is fabulous!  Our group thoroughly enjoyed it at the end of a bustling day! The chicken pot pie is amazing. Just sayin’.

msqc4msqc5Had to share with you some of the murals MSQC had done in the town.  They are just beautiful.

msqc2IMG_4351IMG_4374IMG_4360This small town experience is one to be savored.  Take your time and enjoy your surroundings. I know our group really enjoyed themselves (and they MAY have purchased a little fabric too.)