February?


Can I just say, I do care about the polar ice caps melting. I do, really, but a string of 70 degree days in February! Awesome! I’ve been enjoying walking at Longwood Gardens in short sleeves, seeing and hearing signs of Spring everywhere. I know, I know– we might have a bomber snow storm yet, and pay the price of flowers blooming too early. But I’m riding this high for as long as it lasts!


These tiny blooms are only an inch high. The larger crocus are are just starting to send up green shoots. 


Crocus blocks are blooming in my studio tho.  I’m working on a commissioned quilt that I can’t wait to share. It’s got a ways to go yet. 


It’s a good thing I have colorful flowers to work on because I am so tempted by these snow drops. Remember I can’t let myself make another white flower quilt until I complete a project with colored flowers. Workin’ on it! Snow drops are everywhere at Longwood, I’ve never seen so many. 


Linda Kemshall painted this lovely watercolor of a snow drop. She is an amazing fiber artist as well. I wish she would make a quilt with snow drops on it. 


Walking the meadow yesterday, my eyes scanned the tree line for that first faint wash of pink bud color. Surely it is at least a month away! I saw an eastern bluebird, scouting for a nesting box. I listened to a red winged blackbird sing and heard what I call, The One Note Bird– that I have never seen so can’t identify. I saw blades of skunk cabbage, camouflaged deep in brown leaves. I bet the peeper frogs are getting ready to tune up. I can’t wait!

Quilting Hearts


I found this fun quilt on Pinterest. It was made by Wendy Williams and she sold a pattern to make the quilt, although I’m not sure if it is still available. Wendy’s quilt is big — 50 by 50 inches. I wanted something much smaller to hang in the entry in my house. Also, the appliqué hearts are a mix of wool and quilting cotton, embellished with embroidery and couched threads. I wanted a quicker project. 


I blocked out 24 by 27 inches so I could sketch a heart in my finished quilt size. 


I traced the heart shape onto newsprint and cut it in half. I also made a little paper pattern for my first piece and pinned the fabric to the paper.


I cut a few strips and chunks of fabric in very random sizes. My plan was to paper piece in strips, working on both sides of the heart so that I could control the color, as the rounds progressed. Actually, control is not a good word because I don’t have much control since I suck at paper piecing! But this is supposed to look whimsical.  I’m just going with it, winging my way!


Round 1 sewn and pressed. I used a size 14 Jeans needle and shortened my stitches a bit. It makes it easier to rip away the paper. I could have also stitched to a foundation piece of fabric with the heart drawn on it. No paper to rip.


When the paper heart was covered with red strips, it was time to switch to my light gray background fabrics. I just kept adding strips until I reached the size of my quilt outline dimensions.


I sewed the two halves together, layered the batting and backing and quilted on my home machine. It’s actually faster than taking the time to load such a small quilt on my longarm but gosh, my free-motion quilting skills are rusty. 


I cut and fused a bunch of hearts. 


I don’t really like to leave fused edges raw. My first try was to straight stitch on the inner heart edges. 


A tiny zigzag in a matching color thread worked better. I switched to a size 8 needle and used Superior Thread’s Bottom Line. 


I fused the layered and stitched hearts onto my quilt and finished the outermost edge with the same zigzag stitch. It wasn’t all that fun turning the quilt under the needle, but I quilted at the same time and hey, the rest of the background stitching was already done. Yea! I used skinny green ribbon for the heart “stems.” I tucked one end of the ribbon under the heart point, fusing them down together. Then I applied a thin line of Elmers School Glue on the ribbon underside. With my iron, I forced the ribbon to curve the way I wanted it to and tacking it with the glue so I could zigzag it down with stitching. 


Finished! Before Valentine’s Day! Woohoo!

Tease


I know– it’s way too early to start looking for signs of spring. 


I found these tiny flowers blooming at Longwood Gardens. Winter Aconite, maybe. We have had some crazy weather here in Pennsylvania. A few days ago, I was sitting on my deck, drinking iced tea, warm sun on my face–65 degrees!


My intention was to check out the Orchid Show at Longwood, but it was such a nice day I decided to walk outside first. I found some surprise “art installations.”


This “structure” has small brass bells woven in the vines and the tiniest whiff of breeze sets off lovely music. I really want this. Do you think Longwood would notice if I carried it out under my coat?


Another artwork, all natural. This reminds me of Girl Scout camp on the wooded shore of Lake Michigan, where I grew up. We would compete in teams to turn old tree stumps into fairy castles. We could only use natural decorations to transform the stumps and the creativity was amazing.


Look at all that texture. My mind just boggles at what the Longwood artists could do with a stump. Of course, they would have incredible choices for materials!


I did see the orchids. 


These long, trailing sprays are huge.


The conservatory is all purple, pink and white, this year.


This could be a quilt. All the composition and design is perfect. Just add fabric and stitching. Boom! done. 


Do I have enough fabrics in those gorgeous colors? Road trip to the quilt shops! I do this every year…


So now it is back to February reality. It could have been worse… we only got about 4 inches of the possible 10 forecast and tomorrow it will be 50 degrees. Bring on the melt!

This Weekend

The Art Show at Malvern Retreat House is in full swing. Gary and I attended the wine and cheese reception on Thursday. I am always inspired to see the diverse styles and media offered. So many folks come to enjoy the artwork and generously support the work of the Retreat House. 

Legions of volunteers work hard to make the show successful. I absolutely love the way they showcased my Ravens and Trilliums in the Miniature Room. Quite a few have been sold but there is still a selection if you get a chance to drop by this weekend. 

Is It Spring Yet?


No, these gorgeous sunflowers and roses did not come from my garden….(what garden?) My mother sent them for my birthday. She knew I’d need a serious dose of color, returning to gray, dark winter days, after the vibrant fiesta of Mexico. I’ve been carrying the vase from room to room with me,  I love them so much!


So what does a quilter do to ward off a bad case of “the grays?” Get Thee to a Quilt Shop!


Karen and Susie and I headed to The Old Country Store in Lancaster for a FART. That’s Fabric Acquisition Road Trip, in quilt-speak. 


The next challenge for the Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee, is to make a quilt using Kaffe Fasset  fabrics. The Old Country Store has an entire corner stocked with crazy riots of colorful “Kaffe’s!” I was completely overwhelmed.


Not Karen and Susie! Lookout customers– fabric started flying all over the place! With laser focus they both pulled out patterns and started selecting bolts and blending colors. No purple was overlooked, no striped fabric ignored. It was impressive to watch as I stood by, empty handed, slack-jawed, breathing through my mouth. 


So I didn’t buy a single Kaffe Fasset fabric.  I’ll go back another day when I can focus on that collection. I’ve been commissioned to make a quilt and I had the client send me paint chips to help match her colors. 


Those little squares were cut into the chips and the “windows” made it easy to audition fabrics. It was a good day! I found just what I needed and I’m excited to get started cutting and sewing. I had fun shopping and lunching with friends and I have another FART to look forward to.  Once I figure out how to select those crazy Kaffe fabrics. 

All Good Things


Our time in Quintana Roo has come to an end. Gary thinks 2 weeks is the perfect length of time for a vacation. I’m pretty sure I could vacation full time, forever! I managed to read 4 books while relaxing by the pool. “At the Edge of the Orchard” by Tracy Chevalier, “Lone Wolf” by Linwood Barclay, “The Lake House” by Kate Morton and “Kindred” by Octavia Butler. Is there anything better than lazing and reading with a tall, cold drink?


It wasn’t all sloth, however. We needed to work up an appetit for the guacamole and chips, you know. We kayaked and snorkeled down the river and also paddled up the rivers from the beach. The current in all the rivers at Tres Rios is so strong that I can’t swim against it for long but I was surprised to find that we could paddle the kayak up. 


Imagine floating on your back, looking up through palm fronds and mangrove branches, sunlight warm on your face and the cool water current floating your body effortlessly to the ocean. I think about ancient Mayan people, taking a break from all that temple building. 


The Yucatán peninsula is porous and the rivers flow underground. Sometimes they carve a hole in the surface rock– a cenote, Spanish for “swimmin’ hole!” The guides say this Cenote Orquideas, is covered with fragrant blooming white orchids in June and July. I would so love to see the flowers cascading down towards the water!


Standing at the edge, the water was so crystal clear I could see the deep, sandy white bottom, steep sides and silver fish darting. I stood on the rocks and dove in. The water is refreshingly chilly at first. How amazing to be in this lovely spot, enjoying a swim, all on our own. I’m grateful there were no bystanders to watch us getting out! Exiting a cenote is much harder than diving into a cenote! After several unsuccessful attempts, Gary and I were gurgling and splashing and laughing hysterically. I’ll just say the final technique got us out of the water, but it wasn’t pretty.


We said good by to our new friend. I’ll miss this coatimundi, hoping for a bite of breakfast every morning. It’s back to the real world today.

Name Game


What’s in a name? A friggin’ lotta work. That’s what! Several years ago I invested in a professional stand to hold my portfolio pieces at art shows. They want your name “prominently displayed” so every time, I experimented with attaching some kind of paper sign. They all tore off before the end of the show.


Well heck. I’m a fiber artist, right? I should make a permanent, tear free, name tag. Added bonus, that would be a clue to what the art is about, for those good enough to browse through the portfolio. I grabbed some strips and flip-sewed them onto batting, adding some quilting lines.


I loosely traced the printed letters onto freezer paper. 


I ironed the letters on fabric that was backed with fusible web. Yeah, I KNOW — spell my name right, for pity sakes!


Job done! I used black fabric and Velcro to make a tab that attaches around the gap where the handle is. How can such a small thing take so long? I didn’t even dither and obsess about it, but the afternoon was gone before I finished. Oh well, I won’t have to do it again. 


On to much more fun things! I am finishing up these ravens on cradled wood frames. They are to hang in the “Mini Room” along with the trillium pieces I’ve already done, at the Malvern Retreat House Art Show in February. 

2017


Hiking The Balds on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee? No, actually this beautiful nature preserve is less than 10 miles from my house. I do have “Hike the Balds” on my short list for this year, tho. 


My friend Andra told me about Cheslan Nature Preserve. Sunny and 50 degreees on New Years Day called for a walk to start the year right. There were lots of folks out with the same idea. Those stacks of hay blocks were huge. 


There are numerous trails at Cheslan. Gary and I chose a loop that dipped down into the woods and winds along the west branch of the Brandywine River. 


Then back up the hill into the sun for sweeping views of the countryside in all directions.


Cheslan Preserve is one of the largest private nature preserves in southeastern Pennsylvania. How is it I didn’t know about this?  Starting a new year is contemplative. I used to make Resolutions, but year after year, they always seemed to be the same old things. It works better to think about what I would like to accomplish.  You know, concrete goals and all that. I do have a list of things but I also want to think about how I want to live. I want be adventurous, learn things, seek new areas and experiences, and explore-starting in my own back yard. 

Old Dog, New Trick


I can knit. I’m not an accomplished knitter but I enjoy easy projects. Some might think that socks are difficult but they’re really not. My friend Christine, a truly awesome knitter, pointed out that knitting socks requires two, ten minute periods of concentration. Once to turn the heel and again to shape the toe. The rest of the sock is pretty mindless. I can manage that! I made this pair of socks for my granddaughter, Avarie. 


Since she lives in Virginia and I didn’t know what size to make, I had her trace around her feet and send me the drawing.


Before I could finish the first sock, we paid them a visit and I was able to try it on her, in progress. She thought this was hysterical! 


I had a ton of yarn left and I can’t knit a second pair for her sister. Mackenzie requested pink and purple yarn, please. Of course we had to draw her feet, too. I was pretty bored after the second sock, anyway. I thought I’d make a hat for Avarie but the only ones I liked were crocheted. 


Have you seen these hats that are all the rage? They’re called Messy Bun Hats and they have a hole in the top so you can have your pony tail or bun stick out and look cute. I found this free pattern on Daisy Cottage Designs blog in a child’s size and it looked the easiest. 


I don’t know how to crochet past the slip stitch, but hey, how hard can it be? Notice the blog title isn’t “Old Dog LEARNS New Trick.” I am seriously stuck in the learning part. It took me hours of watching YouTube video to figure out how to crochet over the hair scrunchie. That I finely got it done might be mostly a fluke. Then, more hours on a refresher course on single and double crochet. I thought the hat was going swimmingly until I realized a had a whole vertical row of fairly sizable holes where the rows join in the seam. Rats. I don’t know what the pattern means by, “1 dc into the same stitch” which is supposed to eliminate holes. So I un-crocheted back to this point. 


Then I went to Starbucks for a Grande Latte. And the library. I’m going with the old dog, old fashioned way. I can’t listen to that YouTube women’s voice, One. More. Time. 

Merry Christmas


Those arched windows in the Longwood Gardens conservatory are a dead giveaway that this beautiful Christmas tree is not in my living room. 

Real red roses! I touched them and couldn’t believe there wasn’t a tiny vase of water keeping them alive. One of the Longwood volunteers explained the roses were treated with a glycerine preservative. They were so beautiful in the dark green trees with the white branches. 

I loved these branch and ice-cycle chandeliers.

It was so fun to “hike” around Longwood Gardens with my friend Laura. Usually we’re on the Appalachian Trail together. 

I haven’t had a minute to blog in the past few weeks. Quilt Bee was at my house so I got out my Christmas dishes. Our Christmas lunch was at Peggy’s and her creative holiday decorating makes mine look like chump change! We did something different this year.  We bought a new cookbook, cooked an appetizer, desert or drink from the book to enjoy at the lunch. The cookbook was wrapped and a terrific steal and be-stolen-from, round of gift exchange ensued! It was fun and I ended up with Ina Garten’s new book, Cooking for Jeffrey. Yippee! I love the Barefoot Contessa. 


Gary and I traveled to West Virginia University to see our son, Tanner, receive his Masters in Business Administration Degree. Avarie and Mackenzie pinned the Alumni Pin on their Dad– and kinda stole the show!

 

We went to People’s Light and Theater Company to see On the Road with John Denver. That was fun! We’ve had lots of company and Gary and I have collaborated in the kitchen, cooking and eating dinners with friends. 


For the past few years, our Christmas has been spent in Hilton Head, South Carolina. We are at home this year and it has been really nice. I even decorated the house a bit and got out my little Santa collection. I have been crazy busy longarm quilting for customers and for Christmas presents. I’m now enjoying reading and knitting by a warm fire in the fireplace with a glass of wine. I wish everyone a relaxing and joy filled season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, have a wonderful holiday!

Making Ravens

I am so honored to have my quilt North Rim Ravens shown in the Grand Muse Exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona. I miss those ravens! I’ve been thinking about making some small raven wall hangings for the “Mini Art” room at the Malvern Retreat House Art Show. I made trillium mini’s and mounted them on cradled wood frames and that worked well. 


It would be nice to have a regular quilt in the show also, so I decided to reprise the original while I wait for Cheap Joe’s Art Supply to send me the frames. I have constructed the background by piecing together the sections and pre quilted so I can just fuse the ravens on top. It’s much easier than trying to quilt around the three birds by twisting and turning the whole quilt sandwich under the needle of my domestic sewing machine. Why not just use my longarm? This quilt is too small and I like the way the very straight quilt lines look. 


I never make an exact copy-that would be too boring. So this raven pushed his way into the conversation.


I need to flip my pattern over to have him looking in the right direction. Using a sharpie marker, I traced the lines and now I have two ravens- right and left facing. 


The dark black marker line is easy to see through to trace the bird parts onto freezer paper. I draw a dotted line to remind me to extend a bit of fabric for an underneath piece.


I usually fuse my fabric to Wonder Under fusible web first. But I was in crazy maker mode so I just smashed the bits of fabric with the freezer paper pieces ironed on, close together, on top of the Wonder Under. I placed the whole thing upside down on a teflon sheet and adhered the fusible web. I know… there are easier ways to do this but I did say, Crazy Maker Mode took over!  No time for technique refinements.


All my fabric looks like this. Why is the perfect bit with just the right coloration in the center of the piece?


Yea! Finely the best part, watching the raven come together as the pieces fit into the puzzle. I have slipped my paper drawing under my teflon sheet and I am just touching the tip of my iron down to hold down the fabric lightly, while I decide if the piece looks right. 


When I’m satisfied, I give the whole bird a good press with the iron so I can peel him off as a unit. 


I can fuse a chunk of fabric to the top and bottom outline of the bird and then trim it. I really like the way the light and dark blue focuses the ravens. I made a mistake the first time and I didn’t have enough contrast, bird on background. Noooo! I have trouble with lack of contrast frequently. As a solution, I added the blue “highlights” and I really liked the effect. 


So all three ravens have taken their places and are ready for their “bling.” I’m going to quilt them with all my sparkly , glittery threads. Because everyone knows, ravens love shiny things. 

Catching Up


Look at that beautiful blue sky and smooth Appalachian Trail ahead. Gary and I had an overnight stop in Shenandoah National Park in route to Daleville, Virginia.


Unfortunately the blue sky didn’t last and the rocks appeared. 


I don’t care! It’s glorious to be out hiking and pre-burning calories before Thanksgiving.


Now if this was Maine or New Hampshire, the trail would make me clamber over the tops of those dad-blame rocks. I love Virginia! Here I stroll around the level backside, no clambering needed. Which is a good thing because it started sleeting up a storm. That’s mountains for ya.


The parking area is way down below, where I started. On the way up, I peeled off three layers and seriously regretted the fleece pants decision. Back on with the warm clothes and considered pulling the hat and gloves out of the backpack. 


What?! Shouldn’t all the bears be asleep now?


To heck with pre-calorie burning. I earned this desert. It would just be wrong to pass up Skyland Restaurant’s famous blackberry cobbler. I did share with Gary. 


Thanksgiving morning, driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I had time for a short hike. 


It was nice to think about the families and friends down in the valley, preparing turkey or whatever they consider a feast, coming together to share a meal and celebrate gratitude. I had a wonderful holiday, enjoyed cooking with my husband and son and playing with grand kids. That’s what it’s all about. 

Grand Muse


If you happen to be in Flagstaff, Arizona, now until February 20, drop into the Museum of Northern Arizona and see the Grand Muse exhibit of art inspired by the Grand Canyon. The exhibit includes works by nineteenth through twenty-first century artists depicting Grand Canyon, including works by former artists-in-residence at the Canyon. That would be me!


On display are historical works from the museum collection such as Grand Canyon by Gunnar Widforss. 


And works by well-known contemporary Grand Canyon artists such as Serena Suplee.


Alan Peterson, curator for the exhibit, was kind enough to send me the catalog images because I wasn’t able to attend the opening reception. There are photographs, paintings in oil and watercolor and 3 D works, but my quilt is the only fiber art. 


It sounds cliche, but my experience as an Artist-in-Residence at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was truly an adventure of a lifetime. This is one of my favorite photos from my time at the canyon. Gary and I would walk just a few steps from our little cabin and enjoy our morning coffees. The view was unbeatable. 


This is the statement that accompanies my quilt, North Rim Ravens.  

I was honored to be an Artist-in-Residence at the North Rim Grand Canyon. The opportunity allowed me to experience a unique, natural environment, completely different from anywhere I have ever been. The land and sky, colors and textures, so opposite from green and verdant Pennsylvania inspired creativity. I hiked many trails, including crossing the canyon, North to South Rim, immersing myself in the landscape. I spent a night under a full moon, and felt the spirit of the canyon, listening to raven’s calls. My work has been enhanced in subtle layers, with ravens often reappearing in imagery, reminding me of the incredible adventure. 

It is wonderful and humbling to have my work included in a fine art museum exhibit. I hope viewers enjoy my quilt. 

Last Days

It’s all hands on deck at Longwood Gardens, preparing for the Christmas display, starting on Thanksgiving Day. Here in Chester County, we are enjoying temperatures in the 60’s for the next three days. 


I’m really not ready for this long and beautiful Fall to end. Will this be the last time we have a 60 degree day before Spring? It is definitely last days for the Chrysanthemums in the conservatory. 


This purple swath of mums is my favorite.


If you’re a yellow fan, there are lots of different varieties and configurations of flowers.


Small dome shapes. 


Really huge dome shapes with more than 1400 flowers blooming on a single plant. Whaaat! It took the experts at Longwood 17 months to train this plant from a single stem cutting.


Trust Longwood to show us exactly how it’s done. I guess this should be called Half Dome. 


I really am enjoying the gorgeous weather. Including sitting on my deck reading this book. It gripped me from the first sentence and I practically read it cover to cover in one sitting. If you like a fast paced mystery with twists and turns and lots of suspense– and don’t have any pressing engagements planned– and can put sewing projects on hold– and have someone deliver lunch and dinner– give “I Let You Go” a read!

Fly Eagles, Fly!


Not the NFL species…bald eagles…the birds of prey and national emblem of the United States since 1782. 


Saturday was a gorgeous day to pack a picnic lunch and check out the eagles that hang out below the Conowingo dam on the Susquehanna River. When the days get cooler and shorter, the eagle population begins to rapidly grow and you can frequently see up to 100 eagles in a day. 


There are lots of people with really big camera lenses and spotting scopes, enjoying the birds and also vying for that big money shot in the Wildlife Photo Contest.


My little iPhone camera couldn’t compete and I quickly gave up trying to get a photo. I just enjoyed watching the eagles overhead, twisting and tumbling in flight, swooping down to grab a fish from the river and then landing in the tree branches.


There were lots of booths and presentations on animal behavior and conservation.


You could have your photo taken with this amazing great horned owl. He was huge! As big as a two year old child and so very beautiful.  


We took a walk along the Susquehanna River and were suddenly surprised to have a large fish drop from the sky right into the path in front of us! An eagle had dropped his dinner! The fish was still alive and a fellow walker threw it back into the water. This displeased the eagle emmensly and he let us know about it from a perch in a tree, cussing us all out in eagle-speak. How amazing! Not so long ago, bald eagles were endangered. Watching these magestic birds and learning about them has been wonderful. They usually stick around until some time in January, feeding on fish below the dam, getting ready for further migration south. I might have to come back soon.