rocket tracking


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sacred Threads Exhibition: A Place for All Faiths

One of the greatest things about the Sacred Threads exhibition is that there is a place for all faiths and viewpoints. The exhibition is about spirituality and growth. The opening piece here is one call "A Gathering of Old Souls" by Judy Momenzadeh from Homestead, FL. Judy's work started out as a drop cloth for another piece she was inking. "I immediately knew what it wanted to be when I saw it. The spots which were created reminded me of a gathering of souls or spirits. I believe that we are connected through an energy which comes from our Creator."

Judy used painted and heated Tyvek, hand-dyed and commercial fabrics, beading, acrylic paints, free-motion and straight line quilting and couching to make her piece.

Perhaps part of the reason I liked "A Gathering of Old Souls" is that I consider my daughter an "Old Soul." Believe me, living with an "Old Soul" can be daunting. . . and infuriating at times when the "Old Soul" is a teenager. Of course, there may also be the fact that I love shades of orange, red and gold....

I think, perhaps, that this is a good place to start for tonight. The show has a connectedness and regardless of what your personal beliefs are, I think you would have been able to walk away from the show with something which touched you.

When I entered the show, I was handed a show booklet and a half sheet of blue paper which had spaces on it. You were to write down the artist's name and the piece and what you thought about the piece which spoke to you and why. Those sheets were then going to be given to the artists. I initially thought "Piece of cake." Right. I would have needed several sheets and therefore I gave up and didn't fill out any. I suppose this blog serves as my "sheets" to communicate what I thought.

The first quilt I came to which really spoke to me was "On Marriage", by Maxine Foster of Chapel Hill, NC.

Maxine designed this piece based on the poem by the same title by Kahil Gibran. The Rabbi at Maxine's wedding read it, and then later, her husband read it at their daughter's wedding, then the daughter read it at her brother's wedding (Maxine's son). Each block is a line in the poem and each line represents a stanza.

"You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness."

Part of the reason I like this is the symbolism of using a block based on the traditional log cabin block which represented the hearth in the home. Traditionally, the central square is red, to represent the hearth. Sometimes in these blocks the hearth burns, sometimes it uses a cooler fabric. Sometimes the hearth isn't there at all, but absorbed into the other pieces which represent an openness.

I also like the non-traditional hanging. To me, the block types, sizes and how they are hung represents life and marriage. It isn't always equal, sometimes parts are big and sometimes small, but the pieces together make a comprehensive whole.

This last piece tonight, I just thought was really neat and showed a connectedness, in addition to change. Karen Bates, of Ashland, OR made this quilt called "Reaching for Torah." Her short statement says "This quilt celebrates the opportunity for women to read from the Torah in synagogues today."

Her longer statement is a little more revealing: " Reaching for Torah expresses both frustration and gratitude for my Jewish heritage. I collaged both Hebrew and English pages from a Passover Haggadah, creating an original fabric. I layered this with tulle to mute the harshness of the words underneath. The Young woman reaching for the Torah reflects my joy that women are now allowed equality in the synagogue. To connect with my ancestors, I incorporated lace hand-crafted by my Romanian great grandmother."

I think I like this one both for the joy which is so nicely expressed here, but also in understanding to some degree how women have struggled to be allowed an active role in the practice of religion. I especially liked the use of the lace to make the connection to the ancestresses in general and her direct line in particular.

I have tried to obtain permission for the photos of the work I have shown here, but I wasn't able to get it for Maxine Foster and Karen Bates. I am waiting to hear from some of the entrants and will again, hopefully, be posting more in the next few days...hopefully when I don't have to fight a teenager for the use of the computer!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sacred Threads

On Friday, I drove to Reynoldsburg, Ohio (east of Columbus) to see the 5th annual "Sacred Threads" Quilt exhibition. Predominantly an exhibition of art quilts, Vikki Pignatelli created the juried exhibition "to provide a safe venue for quilters of all faiths who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as an expression of their spiritual journey. Our objective has been to create a moving display of textile art that touches those who view it on both spiritual and personal levels." (Show booklet, p. 3).

This was the first year I attended the show and it was fabulous. 216 quilts submitted by 172 quilters from across the United States and Canada. The exhibition is divided into six areas: expressions of joy, spirituality, inspiration, grief, healing and peace/brotherhood. Artist's statements were hung next to the quilt which told the story of the concept of the quilt. The booklet says "Through these statements we hope to share the experiences of quilters whose stories may provide a sense of healing, strength, and encouragement to others." (ibid.).

In addition, a special collection of 16 quilts made by the inmates of the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio were included.

The show continues through tomorrow (Sunday, June 28). I encourage anyone who can to see it tomorrow. If you are able, do put it on the list of things you must do in 2011, but it's only open for 2 weeks.

The quilts are hung in "cubbys" and one long "hall" of quilts at the Reynoldsburg High School.
When I was leaving, I overheard the lady at the desk say something about how she hoped the new people who were coming in would like it, even though there were some dark quilts.

Maybe they were, but I found all of them absolutely wonderful. Even the "dark ones" were uplifting to me as I saw that these quilts were the individuals growth and healing in working with their grief. They were sharing a wonderful and beautiful aspect of their lives, and life is not always pretty.

To be able to go forward is one of the most wonderful aspects of the human condition. To share, even grief, is another. There is that saying which is something to the effect that you can't see the mountains without the valleys.

I hope to share a number of these quilts which I thought were particularly wonderful over several posts, so do come back often.

This particular quilt is "Yellow Hat Philosopher" by Jean Farmer of Baltimore, OH. The quilt is her rendition of a photograph of her son, Bart Monk, taken by her twin sister. Bart was killed in a car accident five years ago. "Although a common, fun-loving guy, Bart thought deep thoughts. These words were found scribbled in a notebook in his room: 'Jesus once said, the kingdom of God is within. All your aspirations, all your goals, all your love, your truth, your innocence, your hope. You are the kingdom of God. Achieve it.

Then he wrote: 'We are all blind men in a cave, searching for a candle lit 200(0) years ago." (Jean Farmer's artist's statement.).

Even though this piece is an expression of grief, I see so much positive in it. The quilt is bright and cheery, and I feel that his words have a lot of truth and are sort of breath taking in their own right.

Here is "Juxtaposition, " by Geri Congdon of Portland, Oregon. Gerri is relatively new to quilting as she has only been quilting for the last 8 years and is presently 70 years old.

Gerri saw the Dome of the Rock (from the western wall ) in Jerusalem on a trip she took last May which she calls a pilgrimage, a "sacred journey, visiting places that have been sacred to many religions for so many years."

It is a calming piece and deftly done.

The last piece for tonight is "Serenity (Zen Garden)" by Kate Themel from Cheshire, Connecticut. I love the colors in the quilt. My photo didn't do the colors justice, and so Kate shared her photo with me to post here.

Kate wrote: "Serenity is based on the concept of water running over smooth stones, as in a Zen garden. Creating this composition was a meditative process for me; each satin 'stone' was placed with deliberate attention and care. During times of illness or stress throughout my life I have found comfort in meditation and prayer. I believe these moments of quiet reflection have a healing affect on the body and spirit.

The colors and shapes in this design are meant to convey a soothing, calm atmosphere. The loosely flowing ribbon represents water, a symbol of life and renewal.

I have tried to contact all the artists whose quilts appear here, and I've managed to get quite a few, but I'm waiting for others. I hope you'll enjoy this virtual tour of the pieces which I thought were particularly noteworthy, or which just spoke to me on some level.

Forgive me for writing sacriledge about Michael Jackson

It seems the world is weeping for Michael Jackson. Newspapers, Internet, television and radio are filled with stories about his life people's outpouring of grief.

It is true, he was the King of Pop. It is true that we watched him grow up....sort of, if you can say that the individual he became ever really "grew up." It is true he was in the public eye.

But I wonder. It would seem that there should be more weeping and wailing over the loss of thousands of individuals in Darfur, or the loss of life in Botswana and other countries to AIDS. Or the loss of life and repression in Iran...or whatever country of the moment you want to put in. But there isn't.

I know that it is because he was a public figure and the mass of people who die from disease, famine, war and the general brutality of man to man is nameless and faceless.

It isn't to say that Michael Jackson's life wasn't tortured from being in the public eye as he was. But he had choices. He basically had the world at his disposal. But, what about those who didn't have a choice or a chance? Others whose life and death were at the disposal of the hands of tyrants or lack of concern for them?

I would hope that somewhere somehow more tears would be shed for the others. Just a fragment of what is being express for Michael Jackson could be turned to so much good in the world elsewhere. If everyone made just a little move to protest, give money to relieve the suffering or do some other positive thing, even if you wanted to do it in memory of Michael Jackson....think of how much good it would do....a little bit by one, added to others makes a world of difference.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Birthplace of Aviation

Living in southwest Ohio can be very interesting. Dayton, Ohio is the home of the Wright Brothers and home also to a lot of other aviation history, industry and activities.

In May, this is the sight I saw while driving. It's the wing of an airplane being trailered. I had to laugh as it could just as easily been something my dad or my brother-in-law would be doing. My dad was always buying "cracked up" airplanes and making them flyable again.

One of my memories as a pre-teen or early teen was helping sand the fabric of one an Aeronca Chief preparing it for a new coat of paint. I think my fingertips lost a good part of their print on that little endeavor.

My husband works for Hartzell Propeller in Piqua and sometimes I see trucks with two or three propellers going down the road. I'm haven't been able to photograph that yet as usually it's on the highway, and although others seem to think it's ok to apply makeup, text-message people, etc. while driving, I would rather take the safer side.

My garden also has proof of the areas industries....I have two "gazing balls" which are actually the spinners for propellers...these two particular ones were tested for metal fatigue and make rather ...unusual garden ornaments.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fiber Artist or not?

As I have noted in earlier posts, I have been struggling lately with my quilting. Often, I question whether or not I can really call myself a fiber artist or art quilter. Laurie Gravley-Novello of Laughing Girl Quilts blog fame says it's a block. If so, this "block" is more like an apartment complex for the length of time my frustration has been going on.

Then, I have to look at this silly piece which is on the wall in the family room. In 2000, I was asked by the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society to review, research and catalog their collection of quilts. At the end of my work, the Society decided to mount an exhibition and have Ed Johnetta Miller curate it.

Ed Johnetta came in and we pulled the quilts and she looked at my notes then pretty much chose all of them to be on exhibition. I wrote the label copy. At the reception, Ed Johnetta was surprised to find that I quilted as well and encouraged me to come to the workshop she was leading the next day.

You don't say no to Ed Johnetta, even if you wanted to, not that I wanted to. Ed Johnetta's quilts are in the African American tradition and she is as exuberant as her quilts. Take a look at her website if you are unfamiliar with her work : Her quilts have been exhibited around the world and her list of awards is staggering.

So, I went. Ed Johnetta had brought bags of snippets and sweepings from her workshop. She dumped them out on the tables and provided anyone of any age who came in rectangles of cardboard and glue and encouraged everyone to make a collage.

I seem to recall working with an 8 year old....and Ed Johnetta came around and was sort at what I had done. I have to say, this piece was made entirely without thinking. Every once in a while instead of making a planned or sketched piece, I work entirely by improvisation. I just put my thinking mind aside and just let my hands go. I suppose you might call it working by intuition.

I like this little piece, paper snippets and all. I love the colors and I have a soft spot for fishy things. I had it mounted on suede mat board and framed in a shadow box as the dimensional items would have been flattened any other way.

So...sometime soon, I hope to put aside all the concerns of the day and just let my hands "do" instead of thinking it all out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In a Garden with Memories

A couple of weeks ago, I was planting dahlia tubers and thinking about old friends. You see, many plants in my garden have come from divisions which others have given me.

The particular dahlia is the off-spring of one which Winston Churchill Macdonough, a stalwart of the Wethersfield Historical Society gave me 20 years ago now. I had visited him one day spring just after he had planted his dahlias, and he had thrown the excess on the compost pile.

I was starting a garden at the Hurlbut-Dunham House and he was glad to share. While I thought initially that throwing those tubers out was a waste, in the ensuing years I discovered how prolific these were and I soon started sharing these with others.

Win passed away quite a while ago...I think probably in about 1994, and he is brought to mind every time I plant these tubers and every time they bloom. I'll never forget the image of him splitting wood at the Captain James Francis House. At the time he was in his 80s and I doubt I could have kept up with him.

Walking through my garden brings lots of memories. Although I moved from Meriden, Connecticut to Troy, Ohio (NOT a short distance) in 2005, I brought a lot of plant material with me. Some things I brought along were rare or ones I was particularly fond of, others I brought just because of who gave them to me. I was lucky as I knew we were going to move in Sept. of 2004, so I had time to make divisions and pot things up at the proper time and long before the house was put on the market.

These clove pinks (dianthus) are wonderful plants and an antique variety. Mary Alves, now a writer and the horticulturist and landscape manager at Historic St. Mary's City in Maryland, and the wife of my colleague C. Douglas Alves, shared these with me to plant at the General J. K. F. Mansfield House in Middletown, CT.

Clove pinks are extremely fragrant and have become a favorite of my non-gardening, but long suffering husband. I also like them for the mats of blue green leaves. Mary gave me this plant (or rather it's ancestress) back in the early 1980s.

Sometimes, but rarely, I obtain a plant as a division from a friends garden and I have no idea what the variety is. This frothy filipendula is from Eleanor Buck Wolf. Eleanor was a remarkable lady who I am proud to have called a friend even though she was old enough to be my grandmother. Eleanor obtained this plant from HER grandmother, which puts it no later than the mid-19th century.

Probably just as old of a variety is this stalwart (it stands tall and straight), long-lasting blue iris. Elizabeth Pratt Fox obtained this one at one of the historic houses she worked at....either the Buttolph-Williams house in Wethersfield, or the Buttler-McCook House in Hartford, Connecticut. Both houses are 18th century (the Buttolph-Williams house dating to the early 1700s), but the gardens at the time she was working there didn't have a lot of history. It is possible that these are plants put in the late 19th - early twentieth centuries or it is possible that they are earlier.

Regardless, these blue beauties are tough, and they have wonderful fragrance. They remind me of the grape Kool-aid I used to drink during Vacation Bible school as a child growing up in south central Michigan.

While I was living in Meriden, quilter Susan Varanka lived across the street from me. Not only did ideas about quilting and fabric go from one side of the street to another, but plants went across the street both ways as well.

This lovely yellow tritoma, also known as a "red-hot-poker plant" was one Susan gave mistake.

Susan had both the orangey red colored tritomas which are more common and the yellow. She was changing her bed over to have only yellow and she gave me a piece..and low and behold, it turned out to be yellow, not orange! Check out her website at:

One of my closest friends in Connecticut is Martha Smart. Martha is a gardener par excellence. Her gardens are breath-taking no matter what time of year you visit. She shared these beautiful purple Siberian Iris "Caesar's Brother" with me a long time ago.

Siberian iris has to be divided fairly regularly. Failure to do so will lead to a spot in the center without flowers and a ring of flowers around the bare spot.

Lots of other people are remembered in my garden. I only hope that perhaps when other people who have meant a lot to me walk in their gardens in Connecticut that they will think of me as they look on plants that I have given them, or that I encouraged them to buy.

I am dangerous to have as a neighbor because you just might find a pot of iris, or a daylily sitting on your doorstep as a gift from me. Of course, that angel I use in my profile is flying across a bed of coreopsis which my neighbor Ellen was going to throw out......

Now, if only it would get a bit cooler so I could go out and weed, or it would rain......

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NQA Quilt Show Columbus, OH

I've been busy! Last week, I had the pleasure of working at Betty Blais' booth "Embellishment Village" at the National Quilting Association show in Columbus, OH on Thursday and Saturday.

Betty is a charm! For those who aren't familiar with her, she specializes in patterns and embellishments for quilts. Her website is:

On Thursday, I worked with Bobbie Vance and on Saturday, I worked with Brenda Jennings. We demonstrated the use of various products.

One of the cool things I had never done was to use glitter on quilts. Betty has this really neat glue pen which leaves a fine line and does not have to be heat set. It can be used for foiling (shiny metallic stuff which comes on a sheet of Mylar which is rubbed onto glue or transferred with adhesive or fusible such as Steam-a-seam, Heat-n-bond or whatever). It is fully washable.

Here's Brenda at the "foiling/Shiva paintstick/glitter" station. That foil is the shiny stuff in the packages on her right.

If you worked at this station, you did get fine glitter on your face...

The other thing which I explored on Saturday was the use of Angelina film, in addition to the fiber. Angelina film is basically the uncut sheets of Angelina fibers. It bonds to itself and has only been on the market for a couple of years.

I admit, I purchased some a year ago, and hadn't used it. I thought all day on Friday of some inventive ways to use it because it is so new and there isn't a lot out there. Betty had done some samples of McKenna Ryan's "Sea Breeze" patterns and used the foil to great effect as well as Angelina. I liked Betty's embellishments much better than the standard pattern.

I did take quick walks to look at the show. I was impressed by several quilts. For you traditional lovers out there, this great quilt is called "It Takes Time" and was done by Karen Kielmeyer of Bella Vista, AR. In the booklet, she said "Some of the pieces hung on my design wall for about a year. . . I attended a Marsha McCloskey feathered star workshop and the center was born."

Karen's quilting technique and her peicing was top notch. I'm very fond of the feathered star so this HAD to be in my selection of photos.

This little piece is "Mola Mia" by Susan T. Van Voorhees of Columbia, MD. The three top pieces are original Cuna Indian molas, and below the center are four original ones which Susan did. It didn't win anything, (and certainly this photo doesn't either!) but I did enjoy it and wanted to share it.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't get advance permission to show these quilts here. I did search to find the quilters, but I don't have emails for them. I also apologize for the photography, I was moving very quickly and trying to shoot without getting in the way of or including other people.

Ohio is certainly a wonderful place to live if you are interested in quilting. I'm only 5 hours from Paducah, KY (home of the big AQS show), an hour and a half from Columbus which hosts the NQA show. In addition Quilt National is held every other year in Athens, Ohio and Sacred Threads Quilt show is held the same year in Reynoldsburg! And that doesn't count the other smaller shows.

The economy did take it's toll however. Visitation seemed to be down, and certainly purchases were down. Hopefully, it will mend soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Doing a Group Class on the Art Quilt Workbook

Mindy Marik, a member of the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network recently finished leading a group of quilters through Jane D'Avila and Elin Waterston's Art Quilt Workbook. I started with the
group and got bogged down. So much so that I skipped two of the classes. Here you see three of the members looking at the pieces which have been completed as "homework" and sharing.
The group discussed the projects and each of the member's pieces which were brought in. You can sort of see one of the member's, Carroll Schleppi's "Framed Peas" in the foreground.

One of the things you had to do was to pick a topic or theme for all the projects. Each project was to be 9" x 12" and oriented vertically. Carroll's was "beans", mine was things with feathers (although most of what I did were actually birds, I was thinking anything with feathers---horses, angels...whatever), another did feathers, Lori Gravley did "circles" .

I found it difficult and extremely frustrating, although others in the group did some really neat pieces. I found that I balked at the restrictions. I was frustrated because it always seemed like life was pushing in and I just had too much to do to complete them...which seems like all of the "projects" I've been working on lately for the various groups I'm in.

It is a question of balance although most people say it's commitment. I have a huge garden which is weedy or in need at present, I'm pulled by my very social non-driving teenager and her activities, I'm often a single parent because of business responsibilities and I also have an in-home business selling used books on Amazon. I also am very stupid and often find myself doing things for other people that perhaps I shouldn't. In with the pots and pans, books and trowels, cars and appointments, I flit from one project to another.

The Art Quilt Workbook has you do several exercises on composition and design as well as ones which focus on a technique. I found it daunting as I felt I needed to be able to produce something worthwhile which stood up to the work of my colleagues. I also found that there is something in the way I think that when I see an example in the book, I get stuck and create something along the same lines...I can't get the example out of my head in order to get my own original juices flowing.

Instead of being inspiring, it has left me with a sense of doom and even more partially completed projects. This isn't to say that what others were doing wasn't great. It was. Mine just stunk and that just leaves me feeling even more ambivalent about the projects.

Mindy put in a lot of work and did a great job of facilitating. The group has decided to continue, but to explore different techniques or artists led by volunteers. The one book which will be used for "inspiration" is Masters: Art Quilts: Major Works by Leading Artists (The Masters) by Martha Sielman.

I'm still debating if I am going to continue or just do my own work on completing partially finished projects.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gerald Roy and Quilt Collecting

I just got my copy of Fon's and Porter's "Love of Quilting" July/August 2009 issue. I have to say that I usually read quilting magazines such as Quilting Arts, and Quilter's Newsletter Magazine and the AQS and NQA periodicals. I signed up or Fons & Porter's to help out my quilt guild, and I am almost always surprised to find a couple of things I really enjoy even though most of my quilts aren't the type which you usually find in this magazine.

This month's happy article for me was Gerald Roy's "This Old Quilt: Odd bits: What makes a Good Collection? ". I immediately thought back to when I had the pleasure of meeting Gerald at his booth at the Lowell quilt show. I was lusting over several items, and walked away with a few antique blocks. He and I got into a very good discussion of antique quilts and since he was on the committee, he spoke with me about what I thought of the show.

Last year, I emailed him to ask him his opinion something and he was very kind and wrote back immediately. He is top notch in my book--knowledgeable, well spoken, and seemingly happy to speak with anyone one on quilting.

I recommend this article (pages 12 - 16) to anyone who is interested in collecting quilts. In it he speaks about how the Pilgrim and Roy quilt collection came about, what was the criteria for their collecting. I have a small antique quilt collection. One which came about by accident. Certainly, after taking care of quilts professionally, the last thing I wanted to do was to collect vintage and antique pieces. They were just too fragile. (When I worked with Linda Baumgarten at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, she collected 20th century satin souvenier pillows for the same reasons.)

However, I inherited some, was given others, and then there were ones I just couldn't walk away from. I intended to share with you one of the smaller pieces, but I can't lay my hands on it just now, so instead I am sharing an early 20th century sateen and muslin block in the pattern variously called Mill Wheel, Odd Scraps Patchwork, English Wedding Ring, Vice President's Block and Old Fashioned Wedding Ring.

I have a lot of antique blocks. Some I buy because I want them to show problems that quilters often have, either in color, texture, or placement. I didn't want to make bad blocks, and I certainly didn't want to hold up blocks which were poorly done by current quilters, so anonymous, forgotten orphan blocks seem to fit the bill.

Then, there were others which I loved because of the workmanship, fabric, color or some other thing. This block I am using to illustrate this post is one of those. I'm a sucker for this shade of orange and its close relatives.

Two things in particular in this article stuck with me, and I'd like to share them here:

"Color and placement, accidental or intentional, is what caught our eye and earned this quilt a place in the Pilgrim/Roy collection. The color alone would insure this quilt's success, but the odd arrangement takes it one step further. It's unexpected, inspired and artistic.

An anonymous nineteenth-century quilt maker said, 'We make our quilts as perfect as we can, and if we make a mistake and don't catch it, then it is there forever. God has better things to do than supervise our quilt making.'" (page 14, Gerald Roy, "This Old Quilt: Odd Bits", Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting, July/August 2009).

So, make quilts. Do your best, but don't be afraid to make mistakes. Those "errors" may be what puts one of your quilts into a collection.

At the end of the article, referring to the request for patterns of the quilts illustrating his column, Gerald Roy said "While there are no commercial patterns available for any of the quilts in the Pilgrim/Roy Collection, I hope they inspire you to create one of your own. Think what a compliment that would be to the maker." Gerald, you are one class act!

While I attempt to make art quilts, or what sort of falls into the category of art quilts, I also love making traditional quilts as they connect me with all the quilters past. It is relaxing and a touchstone with women I've known, and women who I'm related to, and women who are anonymous and gone, save for the work of their hands.

Books by Gerald Roy include: Vintage Quilts: Identifying, Collecting, Dating, Preserving & Valuing by Bobbie Aug, Sharon Newman, and Gerald E. Roy

Quilts by Paul D. Pilgrim: Blending the Old & the New by Gerald E. Roy and Paul D. Pilgrim
Gatherings: America's Quilt Heritage by Kathlyn Sullivan, Katy Christopherson, Gerald E. Roy, and Paul D. Pilgrim
Victorian Quilts 1875-1900: They Aren't All Crazy by Paul D. Pilgrim and Gerald E. Roy
Quilts: Old & New, a Similar View by Paul D. Pilgrim and Gerald E. Roy

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iris Borer and Bacterial Soft Rot: Perils of Poor Horticuture

I have been working like a crazy woman in the garden....trying to catch up on tasks I should have started in April (plant division and moving plants to better locations) and weeding.

I have also been in a panic as my irises need major attention. Because of poor horticultural habits (I let the weeds and other plants crowd the iris and also didn't divide last year) and my heavy soil, I was beginning to lose many of my clumps of German or bearded iris.

At left you can see a clump which is suffering. When you get up close to it and poke around a bit, you can easily see the problem.

One of the biggest pests for German iris is the iris borer. The borer is the larval stage of a moth. The moth lays the eggs in or around the iris and when they hatch, they start eating.

Here is the tell-tale sign of the iris borer. See the eaten edge of the leaf? The discoloration? The healthy leaf is a really cool shade of green, many are bright green but some have a blue-green cast to them. See that area which looks like it is wet down near the base of the leaf? That's the sure sign. The small circular brown spots are from a fungus which attacked in the cool spring we had, and aren't related to this problem.

This next shot, you can easily see the holes the borer chewed into the leaves and when pulled the leaf away from the fan, the borer was right there. Look closely and you can see this ugly beast. He is sort of yellow/tan with a reddish maroon head, right above my thumb in the eaten area of the leaf.

Most garden manuals say that you can press the leaf and kill the borer, but in several of the leaves which I have been working with, the borer is so small that I wouldn't have squished him. The borer will eat it's way all the way down through the leaf and tunnel through the rhizome (the root of the iris which some people incorrectly refer to as the "bulb").

One of the other problems with the borer is that they carry a bacteria on their body which enters into the rhizome from the damaged areas. I didn't have much of a problem with this in Connecticut, so I can only think that the heavier soil I have here makes this a greater problem.

Here, you can see where the soft rot has gotten into a part of the rhizome. The central yellowish blob was once a stalk and now has completely rotted away. There is slime in the soil nearby and the whole thing smells rotten. We're lucky this time that there isn't a smell-o-cam as this is pretty nasty.

You can see a little bit better an area of soft rot at the tip of my knife.

Conventional wisdom says to destroy all of the clumps infected. I am afraid that I can't do this and I've had pretty good luck with doing the following.

I cut away all the offending parts down to the good tissue. I then dunk the rhizome and what is left of the leaves (which have usually also been cut back because of the borer in them) into a 10% bleach solution.

I then leave the rhizomes out to dry for a couple of days, or at least overnight. I then dust them with a fungicide and replant them, usually amending the soil with a lot of compost and some sand as well. They may not bloom well the next year as I have been pretty ruthless in removing leaves (the leaves are where the plant gets the energy for more flower production next year), but the following year, they are usually fine.

Any particularly nasty rhizomes, I do throw out. Usually the bigger rhizomes throw new growth as the plant is thinking it is going to die and it is going to do everything in it's power to live. Thank goodness!

Here's a better shot at what the borer looks like.

Good gardening practices, such as cutting away and destroying the leaves after a good, hard frost, keeping the plants in open area for good air circulation and amending the soil to provide better drainage, or making raised beds are good methods to avoid the mess I have this year.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pentax Digital SLR lense compatability--A cautionary Tale

I have been using my little Sony point and shoot for all the photos been using on my blog. I use that little camera a lot. It goes every where with me as I keep it in my purse to take shots of things as a quilting tool. Basically, this little camera is a quick field notebook--I take shots of things I have ideas for for quilts, or things I think are interesting.

I use it in quilting as well to try out different lay-outs to see which one I like best. I also use it so I can remember what block goes where after I take it down from the design wall.

I use it in gardening so that I can make notes of what works and what doesn't work....what areas look one way in one season and how they look in another. A picture doesn't lie and it can tell you areas which are weakly composed or are great. I also use it to keep track of what color of flowers are where after they bloom (this is particularly useful for me when the wind has blown the labels off....I'm notorious for not making elaborate maps of the garden...).

Recently, I realized that although the Sony is a great little camera, I missed the close-up and telephoto abilities of my SLR. I purchased my SLR, a Pentax K-1000 back in 1980 just before I went to Nova Scotia to do an internship at the Fortress of Louisbourg. I could afford it, and it was a workhorse, a tough little beastie which won out over the Olympus because of the way it felt in my hand.

Imagine how happy I was when I did a little research on Digital SLRs and the information I read was the Pentax's new line of digital SLRS were compatible with other Pentax lenses. Wow! I could buy the body and still use my Pentax bayonet lenses. Great!

Because money is a little tight right now (several unexpected expenses came up this year), I decided to buy a used body on eBay. I found one from someone who had good feedback and it was in the condition I wanted. I put in a bid and I won it.

I waited happily, but with some trepidation as there are bad eBay sellers even with their new DSR ratings. The box came, it was all as the seller said it was. I put on my Pentax lens....and nothing. Hmmm..... I went back to the internet and tried to figure out what was wrong. I knew I had to have it on manual settings (user defined settings on the camera). I even asked my camera savy neice....She said to make sure that I had the ring set on "A" on the lens.

The lightbulb went off, and I got this really bad feeling. My K1000 was a completely manual model. "A" would indicate automatic....therefore, although the lens fit, and was the right kind of mount, the camera couldn't understand the lens. So...I had a body but no lens.

I hopped in the car and drove 40 minutes to the nearest "local" camera shop. As I suspected, I needed an automatic lens. They had only one used lens in stock for $99, but it was a telephoto and the autofocus wouldn't work with this camera. They offered me a pair of fully automatic lenses for $400, which was a good deal, but I have a habit of buying more than what I need.

I am a hobbyist. I use my cameras to take pictures of quilts for entries into shows. I use it as a portable notebook.....and I decided that money was tight enough that I would buy the telephoto and see what I could do on eBay for standard lens.

I'm happy to say it is a good camera. The seller was fantastic and tried to help me with the lens problem. I'm sure I'll have many good years with the Pentax K10d....and I know that I didn't overspend on it. However, for others out there, the lenses are not fully interchangable....I guess I'm just too used to working with antiques and doing manual labor to get what I want....and yes, the photo at the top of this post is of an allium in my garden I took with my new camera. Closeups here I come!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Empress of the UFO

Robbi Joy Ecklow writes a column under the title of "Goddess of the Last Minute" and has a book out under that title ( ). If Robbi is the Goddess of the last minute, then I'm the Empress of the UFO. To those who are unfamiliar with the term, in the quilting world, a UFO is an Un-Finished Object, not a silver disk carrying little green, or bluish grey men.

Maybe I have A.D.D. Maybe I procrastinate. Actually, I don't think I procrastinate, I think that I can complete things more quickly than I really can. I also wear a lot of different hats and it is difficult to juggle all the job descriptions I have. However, that's the age-old dilemma of womankind....particularly the ones who have children and are married.

I have also made a promise to myself this year, and I'm pretty much keeping to it. this pink thing with the blue is a project I started for the Aullwood competition. I sort of like entering these competitions, or challenges, because it really gets me going. Having a deadline is a good thing as well because it then forces you to complete things. The background on this is made of little individually cut pieces of fabric. I fused them to a backing, and then zig-zag stitched on the machine over each and every one of them.

Needless to say, that took a long time. Lots longer than I ever anticipated. So, when the deadline was looming, I could have opted to fuse the wings, and make it one solid piece of fabric. While I am using the same blue on the wings, I wanted the dimensionality that having each feather made individually and appliqued down would give it. Therefore, I decided I would continue to work on it and complete it, with my original vision and attention to detail---doing it right, rather than do it in a hurry and make mistakes or come out with a piece which wasn't up to my standards. I'm tired of not having my technique and finish down right because I'm in a hurry.

This is another piece I've been working on this month. The background fabric is this years challenge fabric from the Batty Binder's Quilt Guild in Troy. I thought we were supposed to have these done last Wednesday, but at the meeting, not a single person showed one, so I guess it's not due until the fall. Again, I could have fused it and it would have been a lot faster, but I'm appliqueing it and I wanted to have it done well.

I use freezer paper on the right side of the fabric, iron it down, then turn the edges under using Roxanne's Basting glue. I then use invisible thread in both bobbin and top thread and edge stitch it down by machine. It really is hand-applique by machine and I learned this method after participating in a Quiltchat "interview" with Beth Ferrar.

I goofed on this as I didn't realize that I had my iron set too high. The freezer paper really stuck itself onto my fabric and now I have to work at getting the small bits of paper which got left behind off of the fabric before I actually start to applique.

My friend Mindy Marik wrote a blog entry entitled "Love to Start Projects."

I think that may be part of my problem too. It is so much fun to start a project...and it takes a lot of discipline to finish them. I have a lot of projects which are close to being finished. This one is a kind of neat thing I started at a retreat. we learned how to make the circles, using Sharon Schamber's technique. I found this great graduated solid (that's the rust, kind of greyed peach an grey-green) with an almost sateen shine to it. I matched it with the black tone-on-tone and went to town.

I free-motion machine quilted in the circles with a variegated metallic thread. I found these great cowrie-shell and bead appliques at the local variety store (yes, they actually have one of those here...the real deal). All I have to do is finish sewing the appliques down, put the binding and hanging pocket in and a label on it, and I'm done.

In all, this is probably about 5 additional hours worth of work. However, I sometimes find it difficult to get my bottom sat down to do such things. I also have a non-driving, social-butterfly of a teenager who thinks up all sorts of things. I also find myself struggling to keep up with my at-home business, the housework, cooking, cleaning, and the garden is taking up a lot of time at this time of year as the weeds are getting the upper hand

Sometimes, I just am not happy with results. I find that this is what happens when I try to kill too many birds with one stone. This UFO I'm trying to figure out if I am ever going to finish, or if I am going to turn it into something else.

Here's how this started. The Miami Valley Quilt Guild had an interesting challenge. They took a cigar box and filled it with a box of 64 Crayola crayons. Each person reached into the box (held above our heads so we couldn't see what we were getting) and we pulled out two crayons. My two colors were brown and yellow. You could add some other colors to it, I think we could add one or two other colors plus neutrals....I don't remember.

I wanted to make a field of black-eyed Susan's on a blue background, and I still think I'll do this. but time was getting closer, and I had signed up to take a class from Shirley Stutz making the "wonder star." I was running out of time, I decided I'd use my yellow and brown in this pattern AND the class, particularly because we had to cut up a bunch of fabric to be ready for the class.

I just wasn't happy with how it was turning out. By trying to make the one piece serve two purposes, the class and the challenge, I took all the fun out of it. I still liked the technique (and Shirley is a wonderful teacher, and her books are great too...if you ever have a chance to take a class from her DO IT!). So.....

When the Batty Binders announced their challenge fabric as the charcoal, cream and blue fabric from the Lady Liberty line by Windham Fabrics, I thought, hey, I'd like to do that with this!
This piece I do like, and I'll finish soon as I can just get the garden cleaned up, the laundry done, and the new cushions made for the patio furniture, oh...and Carlos has a couple more business trips scheduled and . . . .

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I hate working on taxes. I work myself up into a tizzy as I am afraid of making a mistake. Sometimes, my dear husband isn't as forthcoming with information as he should....

Don't get me wrong, I do not try to avoid PAYING taxes, I just put off trying to figure them out. I feel that there are things which we have to pay into if we are going to use them--and that means schools, highways, milk subsidies, and millions of other things that we all take for granted. We have been raised with them. We don't even think about them.

Heck, I didn't know about the effect of government milk subsidies until I lived in Nova Scotia for three months in 1981. At that point, when we were paying about $1.67 a gallon here, milk there was over $3.00 US a gallon.

I do feel that the tax code is a complicated mess. I read the manuals and try to figure out what they are asking. I bless Turbo-Tax. I also snarl that we should be paying equitable amounts, and it isn't fair that the wealthy, who SHOULD be able to pay their taxes can get off because they can pay the people to find the loop holes.

I know that some of my conservative friends keep on saying that there shouldn't be taxes paid to the FEDERAL government that the State and Local governments should be able to handle things directly without it being filtered down and siphoned off. However, I also had many discussions with our State representative in Connecticut. I discovered that quite often people on the state and local levels did what was politically expedient, not what was needed. In other words, they couldn't raise taxes when the Federal government stopped giving funds for things which the Federal Government required, because if they did so, they would not be re-elected.

I also feel that there should be line-item vetos and I'd love to get the add-ons to bills and other things which give pork-barrel funds out to be cut out. Some of this stuff is just absolutely ridiculous. Someone once asked me if I was in favor of a flat-tax. I haven't thought out the whole ramifications of that, but I suppose in some regards I am.

I also recall that in 1985, I was audited for my 1983 income. In 1983, I had a whole whopping gross income of $5000. About $3,500 of it was a stipend from the College of William and Mary. I had to take a day off work, drive to Hartford, pay $20 in parking fees and sit in the office until my number was called. I was furious. Even if I did have to pay taxes on the stipend (which I didn't, William and Mary just reported it strangely), it would have come to a piddling amount of maybe $100 or so. Why did the Federal Government feel the need to go after such a piddling amount? It was a waste of time and effort...and of course I couldn't take that $20 parking fee off on my next years taxes.

I know it is a complicated subject. I know I don't know enough about it to really be able to say. I was talking with a local leader about taxes and he said that he asked once why the tax codes/laws were so difficult to understand and was told that many of them were designed in such as way so that they could be interpreted differently and that some of them were to give benefits to friends. I can easily see how some politicians can accidently not pay all the taxes they were supposed fact, that is what happened to me this year.

Just after I filed the taxes for 2009, I got a letter from the IRS saying that I neglected to report our income which was reported on the 1099DIV. I went back over my files. I didn't have the 1099DIV. I don't know if my husband didn't give it to me or if it didn't come to us, so after a little research, I paid the Federal income tax and the penalty on the amount we had not paid.

That also meant that I had to re-do the taxes and amend the return to the state for 2007. I dreaded it. Things I dread, I usually put off. I tried to do it a couple of weeks ago and my head started to spin. I went back to it on Monday and was able to complete it.

I don't know about you, but the things I dread, I put off. Often, after I finally "put on my big girl panties" and deal with it, I find that it isn't as bad as I thought....but I suppose that every year, when April 15th rolls around.....or March 15 with is usually when I start, I will still break out into a sweat. The weird thing is that I don't try to hide anything.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going Native

When I moved here to southwest Ohio, I came to a 3/4 acre lot, almost three times the size of the lot I had in Connecticut. Virtually, nothing was there. There were a few trees (some of which I had to remove because they were place in the wrong spot). I also had a luxury that most people don't have. I discovered we were moving in the fall of 2004. My husband was going to commute, and my daughter and I would follow after she finished her year at school.

Therefore, I was able to pot up divisions and some things from my garden and take them with me. As long as they were gone before we put the house on the market, then it would be fine, and I have a bad habit of putting too much in too small of a space.

Where I can, I like to use native plants, but I'm no plant snob. However, many of the trees and shrubs I have put in are wonderful and under utilized. Using natives also gives the added benefit of usually requiring less care than using a non-native plant as well as providing good materials for cover and food for local fauna.

Ohio is known as the Buckeye state. Above, you'll see a small tree or shrub I was delighted to locate and put in my yard. It is the Aesculus pavia, or red buckeye. The buckeyes the state is known for is a larger tree, the Aesculus glabra or Ohio Buckeye. I like this little tree. It only grows about 10 -25 feed tall, and likes wet soils... I planted it at the back of my property which remains wetter than the rest...the land slopes back to a creek, and I suspect that there is quite a bit of underground water. The clay soil doesn't help much. The fall color isn't a biggie, but the flowers are great! Hummingbirds like them, and the seeds are a gorgeous golden brown which the squirrels and chipmunks make short work of.

I have many viburnums which I planted. This one is the Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum). Guess what! The long, straight stems on this shrub were once used for making....arrows! It has creamy white flowers in the spring and provides good cover for birds. The flower doesn't smell as good as some of the other viburnums, nor is the fall color as great, but it is still a useful plant.

Without a doubt, one of my favorite (and underused) shrubs or small tree is the fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) also known as "Old Man's Beard." It grows to a height of 10 - 20 feed with about equal width. The fall color is yellow.

They are fairly slow growing. I looked for years to be able to find one, and in 2003, I finally found one in a small nursery in Connecticut. I had this at my house there, and I dug it up and brought it down. It was about four feet when I moved it and I'm happy to say that it is about 6 - 7 feet now.

I really wish that there were "smell-o-vision" on computers. The threadlike blossoms have a sweet, wonderful scent. The flowers are threadlike, hence the "fringe", and flutter in the breeze.

Another, more showy tree is the Sweet Bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). The flowers are about three to four inches wide. The scent is lemony and absolutely wonderful. This will grow about
20 -60 feet tall (if I'm lucky and certainly not in my lifetime) and about 8 - 20 feet wide. It blooms sporadically through the summer, and the leaves are not as big as many of the other native magnolias such as the Bull Bay, or southern magnolia.

Most people when they visit my garden are sort of dumbfounded that I planted this one here. I guess they tend to like acid soils, and mine is more alkaline. I need to have soil tested, but it seems to be doing OK.

Lest you think that I only plant native trees and shrubs, here are a couple of native plants.
Here's the wild Canadian columbine (Aquiligia canadensis). It likes to have a bit of shade and has the typical columbine leaves. It is a woodland plant and likes to live on the edge. It seeds itself well, but isn't one which will take over your garden. The pointy thingy at right is the seedpod. It will get dark brown as it ripens.

I was pleased to see that this Jack-in-the-pulpit managed to make it down here to Ohio. I dug up several of my shade plants, and the seed managed to hitch a ride with a hosta and established itself here.

It is a shade loving plant, and you can see Jack standing in the pulpit. the "hood" over the top of the "pulpit" is representative of the "sounding board" which often hung over the top of 18th century (and earlier) pulpits and allowed the voice of the minister to carry out over the congregation. These pieces were used in the 19th century as well, but I think by the 1850s were pretty much out of favor.

This particular plant "mother" was one which I got from a seed in a garden at the Pardee-Morris House in New Haven, Connecticut (which I wrote about in another post). I don't advocate "wild collecting" any plants, but the Arisaema triphyllum readily reproduces by seed and I don't know if the "mother plant" in this case was one which was planted there or did live in the shade garden there and in all probability is gone now. Look for plants which are labeled as cultivated rather than wild collected.

I'll end with this handsome Louisiana iris. It is a marginal and can do well in a pond. In fact, I bought this one several years ago to put in my pond, but in the fall I was nervous that it wouldn't overwinter so I stuck it in the ground next to the pond and there is has sat ever since.

I'm sorry about the color on this photograph, it was getting a bit dusky out when I snapped it.

I expect I'll take you on some more explorations of the native plants in my garden as time goes on.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quilting with Others

I follow an on-line message board for contemporary quilters called quiltart ( ). Today, one of the quilters posted that she has a brand new studio, but since there's no one there to play off of, she has accomplished nothing. She asked if others have that problem and what they did about it.

I thought about it a little bit and realized how fortunate I have been. I taught myself how to quilt (and not very good about it) when I was about 12 years old in the early 1970s. At the time, no one else in my town made quilts, at least not that I knew of. I was in a vacuum. My sources were Marguerite Ickis' "Standard book of Quilt Making" and McKim's "One-hundred-and-one Patchwork Patterns." My understanding was incomplete. Matched seams? What was that! There was no rotary cutter and templates were pieces of cardboard cut from cereal boxes.

After I had cancer the first time, my neighbor, Susan Varanka, invited me to take a class with her and meet other quilters. That was the beginning of a long friendship with lots of quilters from the Meriden/Wallingford area in Connecticut. Here, you can see a small group of the original quilters from that class at a dinner we had together one of the times I returned to Connecticut for a visit.

Susan lived right across the street and we'd often call each other over to solve a design problem of to throw out ideas. It was great fun, and our daughters, 6 years apart and both only children, loved to play with each other.

I joined the Wallingford Guild (the Heritage Quilters Chapter of the Greater Hartford Quilt Guild) , and once my daughter was in school in the morning, I began to quilt weekly with a "subgroup" which met Thursday mornings at the Wallingford Parks and Recreation center. It was a great thing to be able to quilt with the ladies whose interests and abilities were all over the world of quilting. If you had a question or an idea, or just wanted input or a critique, or just to stitch and...umm....crab about something, these ladies were there for you.

In fact, they sort of still are there for me. Here's a part of the Thursday morning group at lunch when we got together for my birthday last year (I had taken my daughter up for a visit with her friends over President's weekend).

I still email (sporadically) with all of my Connecticut Quilters, and I still miss them.

When I moved to Ohio in 2005, I joined THREE guilds. The local group, the Batty Binders, is here in Troy. Batty Binders is small as guilds go, only about 25 members. We meet once a month, and sometimes a second time as subgroup gets together in the evenings once a month for "Twilight Quilting" which again, is just a stitching group where you work on your own projects.

Here you can see the president (the one wearing a crown) showing off a quilt with the treasurer.

I also joined the Miami Valley Quilt Guild ( ) which is much larger and has nationally known speakers/quilters give lectures and workshops. I fell into a group which meets and quilts...guess what! On Thursdays. We work on our own projects and bring pot-luck and we eat very well. :)

These two groups are very different, and have a lot of traditional quilters in them as well as ones who are more interested in contemporary quilts.

The third quilt group is the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network. When one of the new members said she had a block and needed some inspiration to get quilting again (she had recently moved to the area from Virginia) , I started a twice a month meeting to stitch with them. Appalachian Quilts in Enon kindly lent us some space. ( )

Reading Shoshana's post querying about this made me realize just how lucky I am to have such great friends who happen to be great quilters (this is a detail of a hibiscus wall hanging that Sophie Pelletier from the Wallingford group did a couple of years ago).

Being able to talk to like minded people and solve problems is a great opportunity. Another great opportunity is the web. I think of people like my mom who lives basically in the middle of nowhere Montana. For people like her, the web can help with a "virtual guild." In fact, I belonged (and still pop in on occasion) to one of those as well. I had great fun participating in Quiltchat which is on the MIRC network, but is also available in Java. Being able to chat with others in almost real time even though they are across the world is absolutely wonderful.

I'm very grateful for all the quilters who have been in my life. So....for all of you who are in the pictures, or are in ANY of the groups, virtual or not, this hug is for you!