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Not a quilter…

The days have been very cold…and windy.

Not really to our liking, at all.

There has been a lot of indoor time, looking outside, listening to wind chimes…

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Playing inside in boxes…

And desperate faces at the window…

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Not much to write home about.

Seeing how there wasn’t a lot going on, I took the opportunity to start another new project because, you know, I need another new project.

While reading Handstories (I went all the way back to 2011 and have been reading through) I was taken by Hazel’s Uncertainty quilt. For the quilt top she simply sewed together strips of fabric that she had around and then hand stitched over them. She also dipped it partially into her indigo vat, changing many of the existing colors to a blue/green shade. The dipping certainly unified the piece by casting the same blue hue over them all. She left a little bit at the bottom to show what the fabrics used to look like.

Since beginning my own blog a few months ago a big goal of mine has been to reduce my fabric stash. Working on small pieces isn’t really a way to use things up quickly, and I had a whole box of quilting fabric from my days of visiting my late friend, Judi, at her quaint little shop tucked away in the hills of rural Kansas. Ok, it wasn’t exactly in the hills, but it was located in a very small town on a slight incline with hills around it. It’s actually a very beautiful part of the state, one of my favorites.

Judi used to live in Dexter when she was younger, and her mom and sister were still living there when she returned from Seattle. Judi was a storyteller, an avid quilter and spinner, and her husband liked to weave. They installed a smallish Mortan building on the empty lot behind their house and there set up Creek Water Wool Works. They had a couple of huge weaving looms, shelves of weaving thread, at least one spinning wheel and spinning supplies, bolts of quilting fabric, and a variety of top-of-the-line sewing notions. They also sold specialty items from time to time, like two-cup ceramic tea pots (I used mine so much the spout end fell off) and antique Czech glass beads.

I used to stop by Judi’s shop, unannounced, and usually in the middle or the end of a rough work week when I just needed to get away from everyone and everything. As a reporter, I could always use the excuse I was looking for stories. Judi often had some for me and I wrote up quite a few ideas from news tips she shared, starting with the opening of her shop in 2002. To open a business in Dexter was news, indeed.

Judi was easy to be friends with. She loved to talk and I loved to listen, although she was a very good sounding board when I needed one. I was into crazy quilting then, not sane quilting, and I told Judi that.

I’m not a quilter.

But that didn’t stop me from buying oodles of yards of beautiful quilting fabrics (especially ones from her clearance bin) or stop her from selling them to me. I always figured I would use them for something, but certainly not traditional quilting. I think Judi always secretly hoped I would launch myself into the art. She always enthusiastically shared her pieces and her love of hand quilting with me. I tried hand quilting once and ended up giving the quilt away, I hated it so much. Once, Judi frowned at me when I told her I’d used some of the quilting fabric to make curtains.

Judi was the only real friend I ever had here as an adult, aside from H, of course. When she died in 2010 I was heartbroken.

But I still had loads of her fabric.

So, the other night, after a day of not doing much of anything and feeling fairly unmotivated, I went up to the sewing room and began machine stitching together yards of quilting fabric. I chose the fabrics I thought looked best together, not in a matching sort of way, but I left out some of the brighter ones like the pieces covered with butterflies and frogs.

For a long time I had thought about turning some embroidery pieces – kept with the quilting fabrics – I got from Judi into a quilt. I found those, too, and they were different than I remembered. Prairie girls, but with rounder bonnets and many more French knots than I had recalled. I blushed again when I remembered how I had cajoled her into giving them to me. She had them in kits, cute little colorful bags each holding a square piece of muslin with the template on it, a lovely color of embroidery floss, and a needle. These were kits for kids, but I fell in love with them. She graciously let me have them, and I went home and stitched them all up. They’ve been in the quilting fabric box ever since.

I didn’t get a photo of the prairie girls, but I did take one of the new quilt top. I am still amazed I had enough pieces (more than enough) to make a king size top.

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Judi would really not approve.

Judi would hate the haphazard nature of this quilt. She would probably frown at the lack of imagination that has gone into creating it. But, Judi would never say anything disparaging about it. She would find something to like.

That’s how she was.

I managed to get a fair amount of stitching done to it yesterday. I’m simply using a running stitch to tack down the seams using pearl (or is it perle?) – it’s perle – cotton thread. The perle cotton does away with the need to separate strands of thread, which is a necessary process of using six strand floss.

Judi would probably say something nice about the stitching, how even it was, or the use of color.

When I showed Judi my first sample size cq effort, the first thing she complimented me on was how I had used the same fabric to match 3 of the 4 corners.

That had been an accident.

She went on to gush about the beauty of it. She was such a wonderful woman.

Of course, more than anything, Judi was a big supporter of women making real quilts for use on real beds. She wanted so see things used. She liked to stitch on fabric before washing it and then, when it was done, throw it in the washer on hot and then in the dryer on the hottest setting. The end result was something puckered, slightly faded, and ever so slightly worn that looked like a real quilt being used on a real bed, and not something hanging up as a display in a window.

I felt close enough to Judi that I thought she might have left me something as a memento when she died. It seems foolish that I ever thought of such a thing. But now I’m grown up enough to realize she probably meant more to me than I ever did to her, and that is fine. She was loved by many.

And, I know now, I have the prairie girls and the fabric they will be stitched to, which all came from Judi. And, every time I look at the prairie girls and these beautiful fabrics I will think of her.

On the day Judi posted the photo below online, someone complimented her on how happy she looked. She was very sick then, maybe a year away from death, but her response was just so her.

“You know, I really believe happiness is a choice.

I love to spin and I was having such fun that day:)”

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I’m naming my haphazard quilt in memory of Judi and my time with her. If nothing else, this quilt and its name would probably make her smile.

The Creek Water Quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few favorite things…

Yesterday I spent some time sewing together bases, or something. I cut up strips of colored cloth and sewed them onto little squares of knit interfacing. I used the machine. I wasn’t sure if it was interfacing at first, not until I ironed the pieces. Yep, interfacing. Fusible. I’m glad I sewed to the appropriate side!

I’m not sure what I will do with these, but sometimes it just helps to get some things moving. I like to start new things. Sometimes it takes a while to decide what to do on a particular existing piece, what is the next move, so at the moment I have several things sitting. I look at them, try to decide, try to let it flow…

Here’s a new project begun yesterday…

There are the squares of interfacing. Most of them are gone now. Fusible knit interfacing became my favorite when I was making clothes. I’m not so interested in making clothes these days, even though I’ve got loads of fabric left over from my sewing days. So much fabric…I went through one of those jumbo size tubs full of fabric yesterday, pulled some of it out to sew onto the interfacing squares. I have so much fabric. I collected a lot in my crazy quilting days, a lot of synthetics. How will I ever use it up?

One of the things I want to do is cut up the unfinished crazy quilt blocks I’ve had lying around for years, cut them into smaller blocks, and use some of these bigger fabric pieces for the backing. But, that’s a new project yet to be started.

In my efforts to improve my drawing skills I purchased a jumbo size artist’s pad. It’s way too big for my simple efforts, not what I was really looking for, but the whole pad was $2.50 on clearance. Not long ago I saw little books made by textile artist Dorothy Caldwell and her workshop students. (I’d love to go to one of her workshops.) As a writer, this immediately appeals. I found examples in one of the blogs listed on Spirit Cloth, but can’t remember which one. I tried looking, but need to take a little more time to find it. Anyway, I loved her idea for using these little homemade diaries, which can become soil examples, color swatches of earth on paper. Ingenious. I’m just going to make one for drawing, or whatever, and these folded pages came out of the jumbo pad, cut in half lengthwise and folded accordion style. I’m a writer, so if it’s like my other drawing books, it will probably end up with a fair amount of writing in it. I might make a cover for it. I was considering that last night. I think it would be really nice. I have some cover-type things already made up which I could use.

I’ve mentioned before my love of rescuing pottery from thrift stores. I found this beautiful bowl earlier this month for $3.

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It’s in my sewing room, holding some trim to be dyed.

And this one was from a different town. The seller had 4 of them, two big, two smaller. I bought a large one. $10. Made by a local artist who is probably gone now. I wish she had signed it.

I love it. It’s so earthy and gorgeous. I may go back and get another one. I don’t know why, but this bowl/canister makes me think of black walnuts. Perhaps the brown, perhaps the thick wrapped layer like a protective hull, the round shape, the heftiness of it.

I love this one, too. $5 at an antique store in the same town where I bought the previous bowl/jar. This one’s more like a stoneware pot. I really love this one. It has such a fabulous feel, is very earthy and rustic. The lid snuggles in perfectly. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was made by the same artist as the one above. I suspect there was an estate sale at some point in time.

Maybe I’m a ceramic pot hoarder? These pottery pieces are a few of my favorite things. I don’t even have a use for these yet. I’m still thinking, deciding how best to use them. I’m close, though, I can feel it. Close to figuring it out. What would like to live in there, how would the pot like to be of use? What does it want to hold?

Now, if I could just decide what to do with cloth. Why isn’t this process easier? Learning something new is never easy, I guess, not really. Maybe some things just have a different learning curve. I was thinking last night about the freeform coat I made when I first began crocheting. It’s fabulous. It really did come together so easily. I made one small headpiece before I jumped into making a whole coat. I’ll devote a whole blog to it some time, it’s that fabulous. I’m also thinking about selling it, as it’s really not me any more. Still fabulous, but not really me. I’ve changed.

Then there was needle tatting. I watched a couple videos, watched one over and over just to get the hand movement down. And soon after I could copy antique tatting and reproduce it. I understood it. It came easily to me.

And before that was embellished embroidery. During a class I once showed students over and over again how to make a bullion rose, how to make a French knot. They could not understand. They couldn’t see. In the last tatting class I taught, which was like torture, really, the only two people to really understand how to make stitches and slide them off the needle were two girls, sisters, who weren’t really all that interested in being there, but they caught on fast. Their old bat of a grandmother was there, “helping” them. She tried to take over the class from the start, was uncooperative, kept talking while I was instructing. I told the girls how well they were doing, that, because of their progress, they could “help” their grandmother, but she couldn’t help them. Gma didn’t like that, but the girls cackled with glee, said “Yay!” Gma didn’t slide a single stitch off her needle the entire night. She actually hid her stitches from me when I asked to see her progress. Gma wasn’t interested in learning. She just wanted to be in charge.

There were other snafus in that series of tatting classes last year which have made me pledge never to teach beginners again. It takes too much time to get down the hand movement which blows right through a couple hours without the students making much progress or learning how to actually make something, form a ring, make a Josephine knot, form a picot, etc… If I’m asked to teach another class it will be for those who already understand the basics.

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Here I go again…

“You only need one friend,” a former best friend said to me when we were teenagers.

She said it as if it were a character defect.

I guess it didn’t matter to her that I had befriended her when she didn’t have any friends, and when no one else in our class liked her. Funny how we forget things like that.

I guess that was our breakup. She wanted to hang out with other people – namely, her former best friend who was now back in her good graces. I was content to only be friends with her. For the most part, I am still the way she accused me of being back then.

H is my best friend. I used to have many friends, women friends. Not many, but a few key players, people I could talk to. But over the last 5 years or so the ones remaining have slipped away. I never expected that to happen. The person locally I connected with the most, an avid quilter and just a wonderful woman, died in 2010. It’s only been the past year or so that I can think of her without painfully feeling her absence. H is my best friend, but he works a lot and for the past 3 years it feels like I’ve hardly seen him. I would like to make new friends, but most attempts have blown up in my face. The last one involved lawyers, if you can believe it.

I suppose I’m not alone in reaching out to people online, hoping to find kindred spirits. It is hard, though, when you become who you are as an adult and see things the way you do. And things that happen to you change you in ways which make it impossible to connect with others who have not changed, have not had similar experience. I have the most trouble with old friends rooted in particular beliefs, usually of the religious kind, but also other categories. And it seems like many adults value their beliefs more than people. That’s my experience any way. A few weeks ago I told myself, “I need new friends.” I am working on that. I’m also working on allowing others to have their own experience, their own expression. Although I find even though I’m willing to overlook strongly held opinions in others, that sentiment is not often reciprocated.

Today I’m feeling emotional again, and a bit lonely. I found myself laughing as some young man sped by the house, windows open and blaring music. I could hear his voice over the radio “(Like a drifter)…I was born to walk alone.” When I realized what I had heard, I felt sobered. But, it was still funny. And, just a reflection of my current thoughts.

One of my solitary fall activities is picking pecans. H thinks I’m crazy and doesn’t have the patience for it. I had made several trips to the local parks to gather pecans when he kept saying, as usual, “you have enough!” I got a 5 gallon bucket from the garage and began pouring my booty into it. “I’ll stop when I get to 5 gallons,” I told him. Then I stopped and looked at the bucket.

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Nearly full!

Yesterday the wind was blowing like crazy, which is the perfect time (or just after) to pick pecans because the wind dries out the hulls and blows the pecans to the ground. I couldn’t resist and drove back to the park where this happened…

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Probably another TWO gallons! Pretty amazing.

I’ve also been gathering walnuts and drying them in the driveway. I love how the pavement gets stained.

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I want to be sure I have a good accumulation of hulls for dyeing fabric – and my hair. I’m going to dye it again, although it’s been several years since I’ve done it. The nuts I’ll use for cooking.

In about 3 weeks I’m going to Colorado where I’m going to take a week-long workshop. I won’t say what it is because it’s not fabric related, but I know it will be life changing. I am gearing up for it, without really knowing how to prepare. Maybe I will do some journaling about it, get some thoughts out on paper, help myself process and prepare for what’s to come.

In the meantime, I am enjoying fall. I would enjoy it even more if the dratted mosquitoes would go away. What a pain they have been.

The cats are a constant pleasure. Since I’ve been feeding him lots of mackerel these days Chicky has almost refused to leave the porch. He is happier and more contented than I’ve probably ever seen him. His skin crud is nearly gone with the addition of apple cider vinegar and cod liver oil to his food, and his coat looks great. The result is now I can pet him without getting the heeby jeebies. He still has some blemishes, but with his fur fully grown back in he is looking so gorgeous and fine.

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Chicky and Matty have been greeting each other so sweetly of late. I was so happy to capture this shot.

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In other news…I finished the little work I mentioned in my last blog, the one where I just decided to do what I know and throw in a few different things into the mix. Here it is:

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Love…in smoke and cherry.

My plan is to work on finding myself in cloth, learning more, and selling my creations. I don’t have a shop open yet, but last night was toying with the idea of entertaining offers for my little works. I like the idea of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dip it in Brown!

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I couldn’t resist posting another marigold photo.

After pruning the marigold bushes of mature blooms earlier this month, the plants exploded, putting on more flowers than I’d seen so far. It was quite impressive. The amount of petals I harvested from the blooms was easily 4 or 5 times that of my first harvest. The dried petals produce a nice yellow dye. I’ve experimented with just a small amount of petals and the dye was pale. I’ll try more seriously another time.

I had some leftover walnut dye and dunked these items in yesterday. I left the pot simmering on the stove for quite a while.

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I have quite a stash of ribbon, lace and tatting, mostly left over from my crazy quilting days. I hardly used any of it because most of it was white, and I wasn’t into dyeing. I had tea dyed a bit here and there, but not much. The walnut dye is very easy to make and so far I am really loving the shades of brown it produces. Many items turn out quite similarly to a tea dye while others come out a rich, earthy brown or even pinkish-brown.

One of the best lace dyers I know once told me if you don’t like the color of something, dip it in brown! (My friend doesn’t have a website to link to, but here’s a link to a story I did about her.) I didn’t like the color of several items, including the tatting on the left and the (now) pinkish rose lace, which were both garish pinks, so, I dipped them! I love the way they turned out.

I also had some very ornate trim I’d never used, also because the color never went with anything, so I dipped it, too, along with a plane lace leaf. This was when the dye was a bit stronger before I added more water. I love the way they turned out. The trim is nicely antiqued and the leaf looks almost like copper.

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Anyway, I’m going to have fun with these.