rocket tracking


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Celtic Quilts ARGH!!!!!

Jessica pointed out in an email to me that I hadn't put in any of my quilts lately. There's a reason for that. have been soooo frustrated, I was getting ready to throw in the needle..... And the sewing machine....AND my stash (that's fabric for all you non-quilters out there).
These three are the latest ones...all finished from 3/13 to 3/15. I belong to an art quilt group down here (the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network), in addition to the local Troy Guild (Batty Binders) and the Miami Valley Quilt Guild (the larger group in Dayton). They range from about 27" square to about 38" , the Blue Herons being a little longer. All are machine quilted and appliqued, with the red one being needlefelted (aka embellished) using my special Bernina felting foot.
The group which has been the most active for me at the moment has been the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network (hereafter called MVAQN). I'm the exhibitions chairperson, and we have also been having a bi-monthly stitch-in at a local shop for a smaller group of us, just to work on stuff and get feedback from others in the group as well as to get to know each other better. I also meet with another group which doesn't really have a guild affiliation once a week for somewhat the same thing.

The MVAQN also has a class once a month which is following Elin Waterston and Jane D'Avila's Art Quilt Workbook. This requires us to do homework --exercises in composition and technique, in addition to reading and discussing the text. Getting the homework done, plus being a mom and a wife, and overseeing the exhibitions, and gardening...and and and....has been difficult.

It is a challenge to do the homework, and lately I have been really frustrated in my quilting. For instance, take this piece. It's called Celtic Seahorse and it is really maddening. I measured it, I squared it, I quilted it...and it hangs crooked. Not just slightly crooked, but massively crooked.
Often, this goof is because it isn't on grain. I cut the borders from a first quality Jinny Beyer Stripe and it is cut along the pattern. I though I had the background fabric cut on grain and square. It is pretty much evenly quilted, and still it hangs poorly. I've never had a piece quite this bad...In addition, I'm not happy with the contrast, I got the background and the green of the serpent too close in value.
There's some other problems which are less obvious and I won't point them out...but I'm embarrassed that it is hanging at present at an area library. Once I get it back, I'll take it apart (and yes, this means picking out all the quilting stitches) and re-assemble it, trying to get it t lay flat and fly right.
These three pieces were part of a challenge from the MVAQN. All the pieces are based on the Book of Kells, or inspired from Celtic art. A local library has a facsimile copy of the Book of Kells and we were doing this "challenge" to show next to the facsimile copy. The red piece at the top of this post is called "Circle of Ravens" and I did it with specialty knitting yarns which I needle felted onto 80/20 acrylic and wool blend felt.
The eyes are cup sequins with a black bead in the center. Once I saw it hanging, I realized that it needs some brighter glittery thing in the middle of the Trycele (the 2 armed thing in the middle) so once I get it home, I'll add a gold bead of some sort, and maybe some other pieces further out. This piece was my first attempt at felting, and I broke needles left and right as I learned how to handle this thing. Kind of a nuisance as the needles cost $3 each.
The piece at left is called "Blue Herons". It is machine appliqued and it DOES hang flat (as does the Circle of Ravens :) ). I like this one best of all, although I really had to think about what colors I was putting where. The interlaced leaf designs are painted on, and the bits in the corners of the corner blocks are Chinese coins with a green agate bead stitched over the top.
Blue Herons are common here and have become the source of a family joke....which I will tell you at a later date.
My frustration with quilting is that I always seem to have too much housework, or other responsibilities to really focus on it and get it done properly. In the case of the Seahorse, I swear I'm pulling first year quilter's mistakes, and I need to really focus on honing my quilting skills again.
Another source of frustration is that I'm supposed to be doing these exercises for the Art Workbook class which are sometimes not really interesting for me, or that I don't have any decent ideas for or whatever. I also realize that for most of the pieces they have us do, they are sort of collage quilts, which generally aren't the type of quilts I do, and the type of sketching they have us do isn't what I normally do. I feel like I'm undisciplined and out of kilter. It doesn't help that you feel like you are presenting the pieces before the Art Quilt Police....and they're even worse than the Quilt Police.
I think that my friend Fran, who is also in the MVAQN but dropped out of the Art Quilt Workbook class summed it up and made me understand what I was balking about. We do pieces to please us, not to fulfill some arbitrary workbook, and that in this case, our peers are sort of daunting.
So, I hope to get back to it...although the garden is awakening....and it needs to be cleaned and weeded. Ah....the never ending source of distractions...that is my life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Different gardening styles: neatnik versus the naturalist

This is my neighbor Mid's house. Mid is as much as an avid gardener as I am, but we are two entirely different creatures. Mid (whose real name is Mildred) is a neatnik. In the summer, when the day lily's leaf tips get brown, Mid is out there trimming them off.
She deadheads religiously. She trims and fusses and is constantly tweaking.
Me? I'm more of a naturalist. My garden is filled with natives, and grasses (hey, this was once prairie, they grow great!). Blousy abundance. Stuffed to the gunwhales. That's my kind of gardening.

I garden so that I have interest year around. I want birds. I'm an idiot when it comes to planting...of course, this is a yard which had very little in it in the way of plants or flowers when we moved here in June, 2005.
In the fall, I'm busy bringing things in, pulling frosted annuals, planting bulbs, and trimming away things that don't look cool against the snow.
I leave the chrysanthemum growth to protect the baby growths for next year at the crown. I leave the grasses, Astilbe, Siberian Iris, and sedum growth so that the poke up and look neat. I am thrilled by all the different colors of gold and rust in my winter garden.
Notice that Mid's plantings are perfectly manicured. I do almost anything to avoid things which need constant pruning and trimming. If it needs that sort of fussing, it doesn't belong in my garden.
This is my garden looking south east in the back yard. The green thingy in the front is the pool cover. It was taken just a couple of weeks before Mid's pictures were. I'm now hustling like crazy trying to get things cut down and cleaned up.
Maybe Mid's right...I know that at present, I'm working as fast as I can. I'm sure that the rest of the folks in this neighborhood with their tidy lots are probably aghast at my gardening...but I also know that I have lots of birds and butterflies who have found my little oasis and enjoy it.
Now, if only I could chop up the grasses enough so that they would rot down and that I would have enough compost to deal with the clay soil!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring comes Softly to the Midwest

Spring has been long in coming to southwest Ohio.
Spring comes softly...not with huge flowers...Here's a Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis). Tiny flowers really, no bigger than the end of my pinkie finger. It does, however, have great scent, although on this baby (only planted two years ago and now about 4 feet tall)the ever-present wind wafts the scent away. I do get a little hit of it.
One of these days I'm going to get one of the hybrid witch hazels, either Diane or Jalena...they have bigger flowers and more of the reddish color than the species. The problem is, I can't get it in the local nurseries.

Like most winters, it has been cold, and without much snow cover. Winter is hard on my garden plants, and since we've had extended periods where it only warmed up into the 20s since November, with a couple of teasing 50 - 70 degree days in between, spring is a little slow in coming.

For instance, this week the snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis ), usually early harbingers of spring, popped their heads up....two days later, the snow crocus (the smaller crocus to the left of this picture) came...along with the larger Dutch crocus on the right.

Here's my lovely snowdrop... The first flowers in the garden are tiny....but lovingly much as the later flowering big bang spring bloomers such as daffodils and tulips.

In the fall, I go nuts planting the small spring bulbs as I know that at the end of the winter, my desire for something blooming will make me overlook the smallness of their blooms.

My planting activities in the fall is at a fevered pitch. I think the squirrels look at me as a compatriot...both because I'm burying bulbs and corms as quickly as they are burying nuts and acorns, and because they know that my crocus bulbs are tasty...I plant enough so that they can share in my bounty, but I don't know as if I'll feel that way now that my trusty Luna, who drove away rabbits and squirrels, isn't there to stand guard over the garden. Luna never laid down on my plants and rarely went in and bumbled through them.
If you look closely at the crocus, you'll see a corm that I either didn't get into the ground, or that the squirrels or chipmunks dug up.

Spring is also promise. Here you can see the buds on my little red leaved patio peach that I planted last spring. It is a lovely plant, dwarf in habit, deep mahogany colored leaves and it actually bears fruit. (Prunus persica "Bonfire")

Spring also brings a lot of work. I have to get out there (when it isn't windy) and quickly put dormant oil on the peach so that I won't have the fungus of leaf curl attacking it. I'll also take some hints from my neighbor who grows a few peach trees to make sure that I don't lose all the peaches on it like I did last year.

I buy plants so that I have interest as long through the year as possible. Because of that, I plant Lenten roses (Hellebores) as much for their spring flowers as for their great leaf structure long after the flowers have faded.

I purchased these dark flowered ones because I love dark colored flowers and leaves....but I realize now that I need to get the traditional white ones as well as the red color just doesn't show up as well against the darkness of the ground or of the mulch.

(Helleborus orientalis), red flowered unnamed hybrid.
I have to make notes now so that I remember what to get when the garden centers are in full swing.
I also have to cut down all the grasses, and fertilize my acid loving plants. If I don't, I'll lose them. I never thought too much about that, and the soil here is quite alkaline as there is tons of limestone deposits in this area. In Connecticut, I had acid soil....I'm learning a different way of gardening.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Raging under the Surface

Spring is coming. With spring comes the thaws from the areas in the north of Ohio. They get snow....lots of snow....lake effect snow....Here, in southwest Ohio, just north of Dayton, it is drier....for a time.

But when that snow melts, and we get rain here, the rivers swell. So much so, that Troy, and Dayton and much of the other areas have levees to control the flooding.

Here is the Stillwater River, rich with silt expanded beyond its normal banks.

From the surface, it looks calm. It's not. Underneath it is raging...angry...but fertile. I suppose that's one reason why rivers are often referred to as women.

The rivers in this area are beautiful, but dangerous. Most of the time they are fairly shallow, but during the wet periods they can be deceiving.

Not too long ago....maybe December of 2005 or 2006, a family was walking along the banks of the river in Englewood at the Metropolitan Park there. They had a young dog who leaped into the river. The mother of the family went in after the dog. She started to struggle. The father leaped in after the mother. The girls, one a teenager and one about my daughter's age watched helplessly as all three drowned. They never found one of them....

Here you can see the Adam's Street Bridge across the Great Miami River in Troy, Ohio. A flotilla of Canada geese patrol the area. To the right, you see the piles of gravel and fill they are using to repair the levee.

The Great Miami flows down through Dayton after taking many winds and joins with other rivers who ultimately join the Ohio River. The Ohio goes into the Mississippi. It's kind of fascinating to me that soil that starts out in my back yard could eventually wind up in the Mississippi Delta.

Flood waters here reach up to the 1930s boathouse at "Treasure Island" in Troy. Until recently, this was home to a Japanese restaurant called "Arang." Another concern has recently taken over the lease and hopes to rent boats again. It's sort of cool as you can tie up your boat underneath the restaurant and then go eat...

I always wanted to go to Arang, but it was predominantly patronized by the substantial Japanese ex-pats who are here working at the various manufacturies, including . My daughter was a little scared of the place as she and another cross country team-mate stopped there to use the bathroom and no one spoke English. While she was used to people only speaking Spanish, the Japanese clientele was a little too exotic for her.

Closer to home is this little creek behind our house. It doesn't belong to us, there's actually 15 feet or so of property which belongs to the neighbor who is on the other side of the creek...something I find sort of weird.
Much safer...and a source of consternation to me as it is home to bullfrogs and tons of crayfish. The crayfish aren't a problem, even though they make mud chimneys all across the back yard, and I have pulled them from the fish pond as well as from my goldfish pond.
It's the bullfrogs. They are HUGE. Invariably, they find their way into my goldfish pond. Since they eat anything they can get in their mouths, including other bullfrogs, I'm not too fond of them. My husband can't stand them. I'm the bullfrog removed. He's weirded out by the sliminess of their skin and the fact that they are so big. I caught one sleepy one the other day and he was at least 6" long curled up. I can't imagine what it would be extended.
Mr. (or Mrs.) bullfrog took a ride wrapped in my net to a pond about a mile away. I love my goldfish too much to allow them to stay here. A leopard or a green frog I wouldn't mind, but bullfrogs are not welcome.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Strange Habits of the Youth of South West Ohio

The teenagers of southwest Ohio are ....interesting. For one thing, they don't TP least not much in my neighborhood.

You do find yards "decorated" as this one is at left.

No, those aren't strange flowers. Nor are they Easter eggs....They are plastic forks. I asked my daughter about this and she said that is was less destructive. Kids "fork" people's yards as is isn't as messy as toilet paper and it is now less expensive.

In addition, the "forkee" can retrieve the plastic cutlery and save it to use on another victim....Strange. But a tad more sympathetic to the recipient.

I saw this piece of graffiti in Bloomington, IN this last week. I find it graphically intriguing...the sentiment alarming. However, I suppose that's what this person intended. Probably he or she is really a conventional person who wants to seem edgy.
I know that for a while in Meriden, CT all the backs of the stop signs were spray painted "TWP"--which meant "tagged" or "tagging" "with pride." It turns out that some kids who wanted to seem "bad" but who were pretty standard issue kids were doing it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reaching across the Globe via computer

I often laugh at myself when I think of some of my web friends. Whenever anything happens in Mumbai (Bombay), I think of Sunita, and I think of her as my friend.
Last week, when I was talking with my neighbor about "Slum Dog Millionaire", which he had recently seen, I talked about "my friend Sunita." It gave me pause.
I've never met Sunita. In fact, I've only "known her" through the orchid forum, and probably for about 5 or 6 years. We don't really email much...she'll email me, and I'll send one back, probably about a month later...then she'll email me about three months after that....or not...and that works both ways.
Still, I feel like I know her. I often think of her. Sometimes, about silly things. When the wind is blowing like gangbusters, and the temperature is 6 degrees F at night and a high of 21 in the daytime...I think of Sunita in her tropical world and think that she'd never make it here.
When the sun is at its strongest in summer, and the drought and heat build up --maybe 96 degrees, I think of Sunita waiting for the monsoon season. Last night, I made a fish dish and as I was thinking about how to make it, I asked my husband if he wanted curry--thinking of making a sort of version of seafood Kerala ....a version because the original recipe Sunita sent me is long gone to some oil splattered place in the sky--he didn't, and we had a Mediterranean version in stead...but still, she's with me in the kitchen.

In thinking of writing this...I thought of her lovely blog "The Urban Gardener" with all her tropical pictures...and the only thing I can come up with is last year's tulips and iris....spring is only a whisper here....a snowdrop raised it's head yesterday, and a snow crocus today. No dendrobiums. Even my orchids are just now getting ready for bloom...spikes on phals and a tiny little dendrobium....
Recently, I purchased a disreputable Ralli quilt from a seller on ebay. It is damaged (and smells awful...I can just think that some Indian or Pakistani dealer is laughing that ANYONE would buy such a thing...) and I intend to take it apart and use the pieces in a jacket....and I think of Sunita, who lives in the north.
It is amazing how people you never met can be thought of as friends...half a world away. The internet links us all...people who have similar interests but never have met...and probably never will. It also allows me to keep in touch with friends I have left around the US...not that I email them...I've gotten pretty bad about that....but I know, if I want, they are just a keystroke away.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Art Quilt activities and the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show

Ok...while I have been doing a lot of quilty things, somehow life has interfered with me putting them up. At left is a little piece which I have been trying to work on.

It is designed in response to a "homework" challenge from the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network. Every two months or so, we pull a slip of paper from a box. On the slip is written a word or a technique and we're supposed to interpret that into a small quilt piece.

The point is that we hope to push us to work in areas we may not have thought of before, or push the envelop of our creativity in other ways. The side effect of this is that we then have a body of work which, although done by our different members who work in different styles and techniques, will hang together with a common theme.

The theme for this piece was "southwest." These pieces are made of painted batting which I then beaded. I've never beaded anything other than to repair my wedding gown which was a little shopworn. The design is based on petroglyphs from the Great Gallery in Utah and I call them "sky people." I'm working on them in two colorways....and using different techniques.

The process made me realize that I knew nothing about beading....It's more than just sewing beads on. When I looked at the list of workshops offered at the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show (don't mess up those initials or you'll end up where you don't want to be), I saw that Mary Stori was giving several classes in beading. I thought, "hey, anyone who makes a quilt called Tropical Fish Sticks" is my kind of woman.

The Indiana Heritage Quilt show is wonderful. I've been two or three times, and I have been impressed by the quilts and pleased by the class offerings and prices, although I had never taken any there.

At right is my friend Susan Schaller's entry. Susan won in her division in 2007 and 2008 and so had to enter in the professional division this year. This piece is called "Flight among the Ginkgo's" and is made with Lutradur and Shiva paint sticks.
Susan is also a member of the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network

We call Susan "the golden girl" because she loves to embellish, particularly with gold, and glittery things like hot-fix crystals.

The show did not fail to impress this year. I had a hard time trying to decide what quilt I liked the best....I don't think I ever did! The quilts, in both professional and amatuer divisions were really spectacular. I loved a piece Diane Becka did. The piece is called "Transitions" and is part of a traveling show based on "Living Colour." Diane is from North Bend, Washington, and the piece was swirls of color gradations, with black.

Diane Becka's work, detail.

Another piece I really loved was Carol Taylor's "Foliage in Transition." Carol is from Pittsfield, NY and is in the professional division. The leaves were outlined in satin stitch, which was fluffy, as if cording was put beneath.

This photo doesn't really do the work justice. Photos are difficult in this space as they are hung fairly closely and it is difficult to stand off.

Here, you can sort of see the cording effect.

In the past, people have complained about it being crowded, and this year they moved some of the vendors to a building next door to the main show. I'm not sure if they were getting all the traffic they should get, but it was a masterful stroke to allow people to see without getting stuck in bottlenecks.

So, how was Mary Stori's class? Wonderful. She's a superb teacher and I learned a lot, even though my right brain makes me have difficulty understanding.

Lest you think that there were only art quilts at the show, here are a couple which were quite impressive, but more in the traditional vein. There were tons others, but I really wanted to get permission from the artist to show them here. I'm having difficulty doing so, so I am putting these up with full attribution.

This was a very nice piece by Barbara Brockett, of Portage, Indiana entitled Christine's Quilt of Dreams.

This piece won third place in the Amateur applique division.

Again, I tried to get a good shot to show her technique, but I'm afraid it got a little lost in the compression for making it to the blog.
The source of the pattern is Affairs of the heart by Aie Rossmann. Barbara made this quilt for her daughter to celebrate her graduation for her Phd. in pharmacy.

To the right is Carolyn Tully's quilt. Carolyn is from Osgood, Indiana and the quilt is called "Robert's Roses."
Faye Labanaris' Applique Rose Garden was her design source, and Carolyn's husband, Robert, chose the pattern. Carolyn said that he particularly likes intricate applique designs. Carolyn took first place in the amateur applique division. The quilting, as well as the applique was absolutely superb.

I could go on and on...but I won't because you're probably snoring already.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Farewell Dear Friend

Ups and downs and sideswipes....After all the positive things which had happened, a negative. Here's Luna on Feb. 24 sleeping in her dog-loo.

Last week, on Monday, Luna went in to have surgery to removed the calcification on her bladder which was causing the blood and frequent urination. She was happy when she thought she was getting a walk...but when I went to put her seatbelt harness on...she knew she was going for a car ride, which lately meant the Vets or the Kennel....not walks in the woods.

I told her to cheer up, she'd be home in the evening, and she wouldn't have the discomfort later. She looked at me and snorted . I swear this dog was half human.

I dropped her off at the vets and went to take down the MVAQN quilt show at the Hayner Cultural center. On the way home, I got a call from my husband. When the vet went to remove the sludge, she also discovered a tumor and she wanted to know what we wanted to do.

After discussing this with Carlos, who told me she had been moping around all weekend (I was at a quilt retreat....whether that's why she was moping or not I don't know), and talking with the vet who said that the cancer would come back regardless....but she didn't know how much longer it would be, and knowing that Luna was going to be 15 on April 10, and huskies usually only make it to 12 or so....I regretfully decided not to put her through the recovery (she would have had to wear the "lampshade" collars which she hated and managed to chew to pieces the one she had when she was spayed), and the discomfort in her I drove out to say good-bye to her.

When I got to the vets, she was sounded like a siren. I don't know if she started when I got there and she knew it was me or what. I went in, quieted her, and talked to her. The vet was empathetic and came in when I was ready, and she died peacefully in my arms.

It's always hard to say goodbye in this way. Particularly hard for me this time as I wasn't really ready for it. I knew that there was a possibility she wouldn't survive the surgery, but I didn't think I would have to make this decision right now. Different from last week.

I find it always strange, something so vital and happy can be with us one minute and gone the next. Even though I hope that if I have cancer again, someone will be able to put me down as well, I feel like I betrayed her as I told her she was coming home...I guess it was just a different home.

Luna rolling in the snow.

I keep on looking outside and expect to see her snorking around in the snow. I never got a picture of her leaping like a deer like she often did when she went outside in the snow...She loved the cold and would roll and frolick in it.

That thick coat made her almost impervious to the cold and the wet. I won't miss the shedding and the dust rhinocerous that her no longer needed coat provided in my house.

I've been ok...just missing her. Her little jingles of her collar. Her howling, and running in her sleep. I was fine until the vet sent a sympathy card with an inked foot print from her. I'm grateful for it....but it was just another sideswipe.