Friday, April 26, 2013

Clematis

I was on the front porch this morning early removing coverings from the tomato plants, but it was some time before I remembered to step around the corner of the house and check the progress of the
white clematis.
It has recovered from digging around in autumn of 2011 to remove the rusted chicken wire support and install a neat trellis.

The heart of a white flower is so beautiful with hints of pale green and a creamy center.

A long-legged insect rests on a clematis blossom--I don't know its name.
I want to call it a mayfly but no idea if that is correct.

This photo is not as clear.
I was using the macro setting but was not at the correct angle to do justice to the opening blossom.

Edward the Cat was purring around my ankles, swishing his tail into camera range.
I tried to maneuver him out of the photo while holding the camera steady.

I could have taken dozens of photos.
It seems that the buds and blooms arrange themselves perfectly into lovely compositions.

Why must the most beautiful plants have such a short blooming season?
[A rhetorical question, of course.]
By next week the lavender/pink clematis on the larger trellis should be opening its dusky blooms.
Such fleeting joy--new each springtime.

I have dealt with the camera!
Which is not to say that I have explored a fraction of its capabilities!
After frustrating hours of attempting to deal with the fuji software I suspected that it was loading an app which was incompatable with other programs.
Programs and functions which I had opened immediately 'froze' putting me into a panic.
At 10:15 PM I un-installed the software and decided I must go to bed while some hint of sanity remained.
I knew that in the morning I would attempt to load my new photos using an existing program.
Picasa loaded them without a hitch and automatically duplicated them in "My Pictures."
I can edit, e-mail, print, upload to blogger, Face Book or craigslist.
What more do I need?
I feel grumpish toward Fuji for not providing user-friendly software, but I'm not going to waste more precious hours banging my head over it.
Instead I will concentrate on learning more about my clever camera and enjoy recording my emerging gardens and the antics of my cats.
Expect to see more!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gettysburg Remembrance Quilt in Progress


The completion of my Wuthering Heights Double Sawtooth Star quilt saw me with some fabrics from the WH line still in my stash, others used down to the tiniest scraps or completely gone.
My cupboard contained some untouched Chocolat yardage by the same designers [3 Sisters for Moda] in patterns and colorways which blend. [Designers tend to produce a number of related 'collections' ] A determined web-search didn't turn up more of the WH or Chocolat line in stock, but Double Chocolat is still to be found.

Rather than ordering or buying frugally with fabric I really admire, my tendancy  well-established habit is to purchase several yards--thus the stash never quite diminishes!
Yesterday was a dark and rainy day.
We hurried to set out the 25 strawberry plants which had arrived at 7 on the previous evening
via the Fed Ex truck.
Rain began as we tucked the plants into the newly turned earth.
By the time we finished and I had brought in some wood for my downstairs fire, the back of my sweatshirt was uncomfortably sodden.
I haven't made a fire downstairs in several weeks as there has been no time to sew.
I cleaned out ashes, trudging back out in the wet to dump them, laid in wads of crumpled paper and began the ritual of arranging the twigs I use for kindling.
When I tidied my herb garden during a sunny afternoon earlier in the month, I saved  clippings of thyme, sage and lavender and put them in a basket by the wood stove.
I added a handful of these to my carefully laid fire and watched as the tiny flame grew and licked at the larger sticks of aromatic cedar, saved from J.'s creation of cedar boards last autumn.
By the time we had eaten our mid-morning meal and  I had tidied the kitchen, my downstairs sewing room was cozy.
I brought out my fabric, spread it on the work table and stood gloating.
It became rather apparent that there is more than one quilt top in that array of fabric!

The quilt I'm creating is featured in the current [May/June 2013] issue of McCalls, sub-titled The Best of American Quilting.
The designer named the quilt 'Conceived in Liberty' a phrase from
Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
[The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg  in 1863 will be noted July 1-3.]

The quilt layout requires 20 Ohio Star blocks and 44 Log Cabin blocks which finish at 9 inches.
Since my time of working at Wyoming Quilts has prepared me for turning out Log Cabin patchwork at a fairly speedy clip, I decided to make the more time-consuming Ohio Star blocks first.

This is again a quilt where the star components have to be planned and cut for each different star.
I made 8 blocks during the afternoon and evening while listening to two audio books [Rosamunde Pilcher--perfect for a cold and rainy day.]
There were a few breaks along the way--to admire grandson D.'s latest vehicle swap, to check Face Book [sigh] to make tea, warm leftovers for a scrappy sort of meal.
I'm insprired to get on with this project, but other tasks call today.
 Blue skies, green grass, trees exploding into leaf, bright sunshine lure me outside, but
it is too wet to work in the gardens and the air at 60F is a bit nippy.
I've pegged out a wash, moved plants around on the front porch.
I have devoted an hour to the intricasies of camera software, making some progress, but still not able to manage photos in the usual ways.
I've created a 'Library' where the photos from the Fuji now land, but can only access them through Picassa. [They are there in "My Pictures" --somewhere--lurking!]
Trying to upload to Face Book from the 'library' results in an error code.
Work-arounds will have to do until I have more time to devote to experimentation.
Meanwhile, I have a bag of potting soil and a variety of containers waiting on the porch, a pile of
seed packets on the table.
Quilting later--maybe!
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Monday, April 22, 2013

With The New Camera, First Shots

I went outside with the new camera this morning.
I used the panorama setting for the above photo.
For the most part I stayed with the 'auto' setting or played with the several adjustments for macro.
I have so much to learn!
The software for this camera is quite different from the other two I've had.  The folder of photos disappeared somewhere in my PC.
I've found a 'work-around' to move them to where I can post from them, but hope I can discover the more direct way to store and access.
The booklet that came with the camera doesn't cover this.

The bee in the redbud kept moving, but I think I captured him.
When I walked to the mailbox the humming of bees in the redbuds was a constant contented drone.

Redbud sends up blossoms directly on a branch or twig.

This is a fleeting and lovely sight: 'seed wings' on the maples.
Aren't they exotic looking?

I was admiring the sweet-scented appleblossoms on one of the old dooryard trees when I noticed the painted effect.  It looks as though someone dipped a fine brush in carmine paint and very lightly stroked one petal.

Gazing upwards into the apple tree.
It has been allowed to send up new branches until they have created a twiggy clutter.

Redbud flowering on a nearly horizontal branch.

Redbud aka Judas Tree--dainty against the blue sky.

Clematis in the morning sunshine.

Plump clematis buds.


Looking at the upper perennial strip.

Pinks coming into bloom.  These have spread into a thick and hardy clump.
The flowers are small but very fragrant.

Edward, caught in mid roll on the warm asphalt of the driveway.

Nellie and Willow are standing guard over the entrance to a mole tunnel.
Closer investigation showed that an assortment of cats had been following the moles' pathway, stopping to dig every few yarrds.
The kittens  boy CATS came in with their claws caked with bits of turf and mud which we had to pick out.They troup outside into the dew of early morning, then stomp through the flower gardens, returning with muddy feet and wet, bedraggled under-carriage.
If I'm sitting with my morning coffee [my only coffee of the day!] my lap is a favored destination for wiping and warming chilly paws.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Rough Winds Do Shake The Darling Buds"...Of April

Ornamental crabapple in bloom.
Rounding up my week with photos taken over several days.
These are probably the last from my Canon Powershot
About a year ago one of the cats pushed the camera off my untidy desk [go figure!] and a tiny piece was chipped off the battery compartment door. Canon no longer serviced that model or supplied parts, so I've used the camera for the past year with a heavy piece of scotch tape holding the battery door in place--removing and renewing tape each time the batteries needed changed.
This stop-gap measure hasn't been very effective recently--the plastic bits are too worn for any amount of tape to hold the door tightly enough to maintain battery contact.

My new camera arrived on Wednesday.
On Thursday I drove to Wal Mart to purchase a memory card and a padded carry bag.
I am now, typically, balking at the learning curve involved in familiarizing myself with the camera which, according to the instruction booklet, will do many astonishing things.
Tomorrow I will need to quit dithering, or I shall miss the wonderful daily changes of springtime!

Close-up of the crabapple blossoms.

Rosa 'Wise Portia' after pruning.

I've spent time weeding, pruning and generally fussing about in the flower strips this week.
We experienced several days when afternoon temperatures soared into the mid 80's F with gusty warm winds which shook blossoms from the trees and strewed the maple 'seed wings' across the driveway.
On one of those days I washed the heavy curtains from the bow window and pegged them on the clothesline. I usually stand facing down the valley to pin out the wash [I'm sure I don't know why!]
The wind was blowing from the south--up the valley--and before I thought what might happen a gust of wind drove the wire line weighted with curtains into the side of my face, knocking my glasses askew.
I yelped in startled pain, caught a curtain as it tried to turn into a parachute.
I had a sense of Mary Poppins sailing aloft and hovering over our garden, not with an umbrella, but with my living-room drapes!

The old bird house in the back yard is home to a pair of bluebirds this spring.
Gina and I were enjoying the sun in the carport one afternoon when she spotted Bobby McGee the cat taking an unhealthy interest from his perch on a branch of the tree.
We began barricading the birdhouse with sticks, then J. brought out a roll of wire and encircled the trunk of the tree.
Bobby has prowled about. The birds have flitted nervously in and out of the house, never going very far. [There are four eggs in the nest.]
J. has bellowed at Bobby whenever he sees him lurking in the vicinity.
We can only hope that the bluebirds will raise their young and see them fledged without tragic interference from the cats.

Green-gold light early on Wednesday morning, looking south down the Big Creek Valley.
As I turned from taking this photo, a hummingbird whizzed past my head.
I rummaged out the nectar feeder, then we decided it would be dashed from its hook or the syrup spilled by the wild wind.
It was Saturday before we hung it out and I haven't seen the 'hummer' again.

Clematis vines clambering up the trellis.
I noticed today that the first one has opened--incentive to take out the new camera in the morning.

Cats are always inspired by windy days.
The three boy 'kittens' raced about the front yard, pounced at each other, tore up and down trees.
I sat on the porch with my coffee watching them.
The large bumblebees which the locals call 'wood bees' are out in full force.
They buzz around the porch in the morning sunshine, zooming in to hover disconcertingly close.
It is an odd thing to be stared down by a bee!
They seem not to have beligerant intentions!

Bobby McGee, always the most adventurous of the kittens, has dicovered that he can climb the grape arbor near the clothesline and leap onto the roof of the garage.

Bobby paraded across the roof, peered down at me, raced back up to the peak.


On his way back to the ground, Bobby stops to inspect the honeysuckle vine which rampages over the grape arbor.


Rain moved in during Thursday night, a pelting, cold rain.
Temperatures had dropped 30 degrees in the space of a few hours.


During a lull in the rain, I pulled on my boots and walked down to the mailbox, the old camera in my pocket. I wanted a photo of the dogwood before the blooms were dashed to pieces by the wind and wet.
I set the camera for 'macro' but had to hold the wind-lashed branch with one hand and manage the camera with the other.
The resulting photos are not well-defined.


Late in the afternoon the sun came out, the sky cleared, but the wind continued to bluster.

Petals lay scattered in the grass beneath the crabapple tree.

Fragile dry branches were snapped from the tall maples.
I gathered them to break up for fire starters.

I have been weeding in the peony/iris bed which borders part of the upper garden.
When Devin and I enlarged this strip around the two original peonies, he carried some soil from the back pasture to build up the level above the stones.  The soil seems heavier and coarser than the garden soil.
This is a difficult area to work as roots from a nearby tree reach into it. Last summer I tucked plants of creeping thyme around the stone steps--none of them survived.

The sweet spicey scent of the viburnum fills the dooryard.
It is far sweeter than the odor which has come up the valley on the wind these past days.
A neighboring field has been spread with 'fertilizer' from an area chicken farm.
I won't attempt to describe the reek--the wind has generously carried it for a mile in either
direction from the field!

Spring when it finally arrives, is an impetuous and head-long season.
Flowers bloom and quickly fade, weeds take over;  the list of tasks that need to be done 'right now' is exhausting even to contemplate.
The venerable old apple tree in full bloom today will be fading, changed by tomorrow---and I didn't take a photo of it in its full glory!
Instead I used my outdoor time to grub weeds from the lower perennial strip--digging out the stalks of wild onion that proliferate, wrenching at clumps of invasive, thick-rooted grass.
The tasks will never be all ticked off the list. Some will be abandoned, others will take priority.
There has to be time to 'smell the roses,' to watch the sunrise, to sit on the front porch in the early morning and listen to the mockingbird, time to watch the boy cats tumble in the grass.
Each day is precious.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quilts Finished, Winter, 2013


I headed downstairs to my sewing room in the days following the turn of the year.
It was a time for the warmth of the woodstove, music or an audiobook on the CD player, a time to take out an unfinished project or two and see what else I could create.
Some of the 6 inch blocks which form these star centers were made in Wyoming.
Because no two are quite alike, the work was slow, but made satisfying by the 'play' with
colors and patterns.
I decided to make two mid-sized quilts with slightly different settings rather than the one king-sized that I originally planned.
Daughter Gina immediately put in her bid for a quilt and  presented me with some scraps from one I made for her 3 years ago which she wanted incorporated into her arrangement of blocks.
This is her finished quilt.

I had this machine quilted by a local quilter who used a 'wave' pattern.
This quilter doesn't offer a choice of batting and only a limited selection of backing fabrics.
She prefers that her customers not bring in their own.
Her machine quilting is adequate and the price is very reasonable.

This photo, taken with the blocks laid out in rows, but prior to stitching together with the
sashing and quilting,
is a better representation of the colors.

This is a large lap-size quilt created for our brother-in-law, Chuck.
I had six of the blocks left from making a king-sized one for our son several years ago.
The Primitive Log Cabin pattern seems suitable for a 'manly' quilt.
The Log Cabin variations all work up fairly quickly due to the straight cutting and piecing.
Here again, since each block has different arrangements of fabric strips, the selection of fabrics takes time--and I end up with tottering piles of potential choices layered on my table.
Our local quilter calls this a double wishbone pattern of stitching.

For J.'s dear sister I chose from my stash of flowery fabrics.
I enjoy making quilts with a traditional setting comprised of two distinct blocks.
This is 'Snowball' paired with 'Nine-patch.'
One of the pleasures of such a arrangement is that the finished block size can often be calculated to preference.
In this quilt the 6 inch snowballs easily translated to a 9 patch made with strips cut 2 1/2 inches.
An inner border of dainty pink woven check and an outer border in a spring-time yellow floral finished a lady-like quilt.
The machine quilter used the wave pattern on this one.

With the two gift quilts delivered to the local machine quilter I returned to the pile of 6 inch blocks in my cherished Wuthering Heights fabric.
The inspiration for these star sampler quilts was a book, Keep Quilting, by Alex Anderson.
There were a few of the block centers that I didn't care for, so I searched through other
pattern collections for 6" blocks.

I enjoyed laying out the different elements of this quilt.
I used a setting which alternated four of the 6 inch blocks with 12 inch Double Sawtooth Star blocks.
I needed a dark fabric for the sashing--and this particular line of fabric came out about 2006--it sold out quickly in the shop where I worked.
Knowing that the fabric designers [3 Sisters for Moda] usually release several consecutive lines with similar colors, I was able to find online several yards of a coordinating 'tone-on-tone' in 'Double Chocolat.'

I chose to make all the outer star points from the elegant red prints in this fabric line.
I especially like this block with the inner star center fussy cut from a scrap of a rose print.

I had this chunk of quilt backing in my stash.
It is the perfect compliment in both style and color for the Wuthering Heights fabric in the quilt.
I usually finish my quilts with a French fold binding.  There was ample fabric and heirloom cotton batting on all sides of the quilt to cut to 2 inches, fold over the front and stitch down, mitering the corners.

The machine quilting was done by a creative quilter who lives only a mile or two from my old home in Vermont.  Marion of Knox Hill Quilts chose a simple swirling design to compliment the 'busyness' of the sampler quilt.
Would I make another sampler?
Probably not.
They are time consuiming in both the cutting and piecing process.
Also, a sampler seems more of a display piece than a bed cover.
At the moment I'm without a 'work in progress.'
During the bitterly cold and windy week in early March when J. was working in Wyoming, I dragged out some bits and pieces left from older projects.
One of them quickly became an exasperation.
The other has possibilities for a mid-size everyday quilt.
Both were bundled away in favor of 'spring cleaning.'
A succession of house guests were shared between our home and our daughter's over a three week span.
A break in the weather brought warmer days and I flung myself into gardening.
It is still chilly in the basement sewing room but not worthwhile to start a fire for the hour or two which I might claim for sewing.
My fabric cupboards have been rummaged and need tidying.
Several possible projects are beginning to lure me.
One of them requires some advance preparation of small applique pieces.
Another might utilize the scraps of Wuthering Heights fabric [yes--there is still some left over!]
Then there's that stack of fabrics by Kansas Troubles--lovely dark reds, old gold, butternut brown--surely that needs to be turned into a special quilt!
A few sessions of organizing and cutting should see me with a project or two ready to stitch at a
 moment's notice.
By late May or early June the basement sewing room will become a perfect cool retreat from the hot work of gardening!