Saturday, July 31, 2010

Never Boring

Not the same old, same old -- I go to the same place to walk most mornings, but even when I'm half in reverie about something that's on my mind, I notice new things. This morning, from a distance I saw what I thought was a couple of kayaks pulled up on the beach of the creek side of the spit of land I walk on. No one was around -- not unusual, people often walk over the low dune for a dip in the ocean. Before I reached the spot five women walked from the ocean side. All had on fat gray life jackets over bathing suits. They were middle aged but athletic looking. [None looked like the above picture of Kate Hudson, I don't think any of them own bikinis - Hey, this is Cape Cod, not California!] They pulled their boats into the water -- one was obviously a leader or instructor -- and I saw that they were actually paddle boards and that paddles were different than kayak paddles.

I had seen one or two people in the ocean on afternoon visits to the beach on paddle boards but this was my first up close encounter. It looked like something I would enjoy. They pushed off into the quiet, very shallow water, kneeling for a while, and then, when they felt balanced, they stood and paddled on up the creek. I thought of taking a photo but felt shy of doing so. I realized that time is probably against me and actually I could not do this. My once broken hip is well healed but has left me without strength in that hip to rise gracefully from a kneeling position. Darn! Not that I'm about to go out an buy a paddle board or find someone giving lessons. It's just an irksome realization. They looked peaceful moving slowly along, reminiscent of gondoliers or the people who poled me and others through the marshes in Okavango Delta a couple years ago in light, shallow boats, where we moved amidst reeds and water lilies. I envied the five women and loved having seen them.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Phew, it's hotter elsewhere!

When I awoke this morning, a light quilt over me, a breath of cool breeze fluttering the curtains at the open window, I realized that muttering about the humidity and feeling a little lethargic because I feel a little sticky, is a minor matter. I'm actually enjoying this summer very much.

I've been told that this is the hottest summer in the northern hemisphere since records have been kept. I just read in the NYTimes that this is very true in Russia. Moscow was 100 degrees yesterday, even if far northern Siberia where it can be -90 in the winter it was +90 yesterday -- in the evening, in the shade, something the people there hardly know how to handle. So far this summer some 2000 Russians have drown, mostly, it seems when drunks have gone into rivers and lakes to cool off but couldn't swim. I know that in the near Arctic latitudes mosquitoes are a major summer problem. They must be worse than pestilential this year.

Taking a broad enough view to see what others are dealing with is a sure way to understand one's own good fortune. I'm about to go for my morning walk on the beach, there's a strong breeze, the sun is out and the clouds are puffy cotton ball bits high in the sky. I wish everyone else could enjoy this summer as much as I do.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Piecing Puzzle

I have been thinking about making this quilt since 1989 when my friend, Lynn, in Florida, sent me Trudy Hughes' book Template Free Quilting. Lynn had taken a class with Trudy and liked her and the method. This particular design fascinated me because I love optical illusion quilts. But the piecing seem so daunting I kept thinking "later." Later arrived a couple of weeks ago.

Let me explain that the picture is of the top only so it doesn't hang well but the reason it looked daunting may be clear to those who do fairly intricate piecing. It is the specific placements of pieces that I had trouble with, the actual sewing is simple enough. Below are the four basic 6" blocks that make up all the quilt, except for the setting pieces around the edges.
Two of the blocks are simply "snowball" blocks, the other two have all the five fabrics but are set together differently. These blocks can the sewn turned in different ways and therein is a challenge. I will admit that when I'm just sewing straight seams my mind wanders. I day dream about how interesting this quilt will be and what the next one will be and what's in the fridge for dinner, and much else. I make mistakes because of inattention. I knew that was a serious possibility with this quilt as these blocks as well as the snowball blocks are set different ways to make the pattern work. I'm happy to say I only had to take out two squares in the whole thing to turn them a quarter turn and that was almost immediately after I'd sewn them in wrong.

I have set a good many quilts with the blocks on point so I wasn't daunted about doing this one starting at a corner and moving diagonally as in the last picture. EXCEPT I got ambitious. The specific 5 color pattern I chose was not shown and diagramed with the setting blocks that make the neat little points, that was only demonstrated on a three color quilt. But I love those little points like the clipped ends of ribbons on a package. So I had to figure out how to fit them into the border setting and I had not presewn them but did two for each row of blocks as I added them.

Just laying the blocks out row by row when I was sewing the quilt together took a lot of time, studying what I needed to do and then whether I had laid everything correctly before I sewed. I'm happy to say that of the setting blocks I only made two mistakes, one of which I corrected before I ironed the whole to photograph it and one I only discovered as I was hanging it to photograph so I have to go back and fix it.

This won't be quilted until the weather turns cooler. I have a warm fuzzy sense of accomplishment after so many years of hesitation. I kept a log; so far this top has taken me 22 hours, from beginning to cut to photographing the top. And, yes, while I was sewing, I decided what I will do next. By the way this was a stash buster. I had all these fabrics. At this point I'm not sure what I will use on the back.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gift Mimi-Quilt

This mini quilt, which is about 15x15, was received today in a swap. I like the arrangement of elements, the colors and, especially, the hexagons used for the leaves of the tree. It's from Ky who lives in Texas and has been a quilter quite a long time. She used several Moda fabrics in the quilt.
If you click on the detail to enlarge it you will see the interesting use she made of her sewing machine's special stitches. I especially like the looped stitches all around the picture's innermost border.

I made and sent a small quilt for that same swap but I forgot to take a photo before it got sent off to The Netherlands. Frequently it happens with swap sewing, I finish it and am eager to get it into the mail and check off that it's done, then I forget to take a photo.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


As most people probably recognize this is a stranded, and dead, jellyfish. I have never seen one in the water -- but I am a late comer to watery wanderings. Few things are more aptly named than the jellyfish. This looks like a blob of clear gelatin. I think only the starfish is equally appropriately named.

A couple of days ago I was walking along just at the edge of the surf when I noticed another walker coming my way, I actually realized I'd seen her before because of the plastic sandals she was wearing. She not only said "good morning" as most people do but also stepped over beside me and warned me to watch out for jellyfish. She had just seen a couple on the sand around the corner of the spit of land. I thanked her and said I'd watch and she gave me a surprising quick hug and went on her way. I don't know why she hugged me except some people are just naturally huggers.

I hadn't walked fifty feet before I came to this blob and took his postmorten portrait. I doesn't look like he could have hurt anyone, but then the dead of nearly all species mostly look harmless and sad. That even goes for snakes which look like wet and sometimes squished noodles; but I think crocodiles and alligators continue to look dangerous.

Walking on the beach early in the morning does bring on such thoughts. The gulls have left many fresh crab and clam shells lying about and the washed ashore piles of seaweed have begun to stink of decaying aquatic flesh caught in its tangles as the sun warms and dries everything. I don't practice satzen, walking meditation, as such but always do slip into my own kinds of reverie.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More about petunias

Satisfying curiosity can be extremely easy -- and satisfying -- on the web. I Wicki-ed petunias and here are a few facts -- all I need to know, not being a real gardener -- about petunias.

They are of South American origin and were first described in European literature in the 1820s. Explorer James Tweedie took petunias to the Glasgow Botanical Garden in 1831 and they have since been hybridized into the many plants we have in our gardens and flower pots today. They come in a a wide color range from white to deep purple with all the reds, pinks in between.

The flower is related to a broad range of South American plants: tobacco, tomatoes, deadly nightshade, and chili peppers. I have never heard of anyone trying to eat or smoke petunias and it's probably just as well.

I am just a wee bit fonder of my petunias than I was yesterday when I was ignorant of this information. It's not only absence that makes he heart grow fonder, it's knowledge and understanding as well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My kind of gardening

This year it's petunias; last year it was geraniums. There are two hanging hooks on either side of my minuscule patio. The pots of flowers were a mother's day present. They flourish, I tend them with attention. This is the total of gardening I want to do. I love the bright pink.

Doing some introspecting, I think I like the petunias better than the geraniums because they give me wilted blossoms to pick off every day and new ones just keep coming along every day. Their life force is absolutely amazing. So much so I'm thinking of actually doing some research to find out if they grow wild someplace in the kind of abundance they show here by my door. What a sight that must be, if it exists. Like the proliferation of day lilies in the previous post. I think petunias play to an even more primitive impulse, way beyond intellectual curiosity. It's occurred to me that my daily habit of picking off the dead blossoms is like the habit of all the various apes to pick lice off one another -- grooming. A deeply ingrained satisfaction. If I were in a poetry writing mood I think I'd write a meditative poem on that subject -- I'm not in the mood so it's merely part of this blog post. Look beneath out veneer of civilization and not all those early impulses are negative. Some scientists are even looking for an "altruism gene".

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Instead of Quilting - walking

My hope of biking was all arranged -- until I got on a bike. It's been a few years, maybe as much as 10 and I really couldn't handle it. Arrangements had been made with Rachel's school's hiking guru with whom [along with a bunch of students] she has hiked the length of Cape Cod over about 15 months. He had several bikes, it sounded GREAT. I flunked the street in front of the house. So we walked the bike trail between the lower Cape towns of Falmouth and Woods Hole. Perhaps 5 miles total, or a smidge more. I was tired at the end of the day but that's all. I took some pictures -- here the lighthouse between the two towns. It has a name which I wrote on a scrap of paper that I've lost. There was such a crowd waiting to go up it that we just admired from the road and went on our way. It was a gray day with flashes of sun that reminded us how lucky we were that it was gray.

As I said aloud taking this picture, to say I'll take a scenic picture on Cape Cod is a redundancy. It's all scenic. Woods Hole, with it's world renown Oceanic Institute is a quaint town that remains quaint despite housing many institutional buildings. I had never been there before. The second picture was a private home's field of day lilies.
They had a sign saying "pick weeds for free". I think they were implying the lilies were weeds. Sure didn't look like weeds to me. Sam, the hiker, was also quite a talker and had lived and worked in Woods Hole for some years before teaching. He was an excellent guide, a role he took on both voluntarily and with apparent pleasure.

Lesson of the day is that I have never been much of a biker, but I remain a pretty good hiker.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Top Together

The paper piecing is done, but the paper is still on and needs to be torn away -- then it can be ironed and finished. But I'm not going to finish it until the weather turns less humid and hot. I don't feel like dealing with batting and backing in this kind of weather.

I purchased a book with a version of this quilt on the front at a quilt show a long time ago -- probably 6 or 7 years -- and the book was not newly published at the time. Something about the design appealed to me but I've only now got around to it. And I'm not particularly pleased with the design. What was I thinking? I don't know. It's not bad or ugly to me, just not all that interesting. I guess kind of fussy designs don't greatly appeal to me. At the quilt show yesterday there were many quilts I liked but I stopped at a simple one patch equilateral triangle quilt, a very, very traditional design, and thought I just love the simplicity. I always love those simple old patterns. And the busy-ness of so many new quilts astonishes me with the sewing needed and sometimes the use of color, still, I love the simple old ones. But then, too, some new techniques' or pattern's challenges will appeal to me and I'll want to make it just to see how it will turn out. I am definitely not a disciplined quilter.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quilt Show

This afternoon Jinny, my next door neighbor, took me and another of her friends to the quilt show in Falmouth of the Crazy Quilters of Cape Cod. It was a small show but very worth seeing -- not a crazy quilt in it! Most of the quilts were contemporary/traditional. Sizes ranged from small to large, some were Christmas quilts and there was a selection of Christmas stocking quilts, but most were totally contemporary with very good craftsmanship and excellent color choices. Many had been long arm quilted, only one was hand quilted. Only half a dozen could be called art quilts, these were not arresting but it was good to see them included.

The quilt at the top is another of the one-patch Miriam Rosenthal style quilts that so fascinate me just now. I think this is a brilliant example. The quilter chose a fabric that worked extremely well in this method. If you click it enlarges and if you click again it will enlarge every further and you may see why I find it so fascinating.
The border is the fabric that was cut into triangles and made into hexagons which make up the quilt.
There were several quilts that seemed to have come from taking classes in certain techniques or styles. Of these I think the most successful were several tumbling block quilts with excellent color choices and very careful and accurate sewing. Here are two examples.
They are open to new members and seem friendly and dedicated to doing fine work so I think I will probably join this guild, possibly not until September although they meet during the summer months. They are about 20 miles away which is not a big deal. I liked what I saw.

Friday, July 09, 2010

A Very Good Place to Be

The Northeast is having a heat wave. Except when I'm sweating from high humidity, I love it. Cape Cod is a great place to be -- as long as you're not driving around town, because traffic is very thick and slow.

But the beach! Ah, yes, we have beaches in abundance. This morning was hazy, gray and humid but I went for my usual walk on the beach, a breeze blew, hardly anyone was there, the atmosphere was romantic and suggestive of adventure -- alas, I had no adventures! Later in the afternoon I went to a popular beach which was less crowded than I expected, with R. and C. and the baby who got his first dip in the ocean and seemed to enjoy it The water was refreshing and delightful. People all over the rest of New England would love to be here, so I rejoice that I am so near.

A thunderstorm is predicted for the evening, that would be absolutely delightful. I'd love to be awakened at any hour of the night to flashes of lightening and the roll of thunder, it's one of summer's happiest pleasures. Yes, I know these are all mundane things -- such is 99% of most daily life. Enjoying them is the secret of true happiness -- the sort Buddhist meditators aim for. I don't claim their awareness and insight in any ongoing sense, but being in that mental space sometimes is one of the rewards of a long life.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Bright Pink

Another quilt done! Love those words. This is named Kra-Z Kabin, the blocks are almost recognizable as log cabin. Clearly it's a scrap/stash buster. Eight of the blocks in this quilt were made in a "virtual quilting bee" by others to whom I sent some fabric and the muslin patches on which the strips are sewn in a wonkly log cabin style. There are twenty blocks altogether so obviously I made a dozen of them as well as the scrap pieced border.

When I started it I liked the idea. When I had all the blocks together I began to think I hated it. This much wild directionlessness is not me. But then I laid it out on the cerise fabric [it's a tone-on-tone with little dots that are more orange than the background hot pink] and I decided the strength of the pink asserts itself so much that the wildly random fabrics in the blocks recede and manage to get along with one another. So I did the stripes 3 inches wide so as not to be namby-pamby about the bright color. Now I like it. Maybe there's a new wilder me ... hmmmm.

I have one other quilt in progress which is much tamer and I'm about to start cutting for another that will be tamer too, and more the sort of thing I am always drawn to. But more of that when the time is right. If there are some periods of no posts it will be because both projects are going to take a while. I have a journal quilt to make and may do a couple more of the Buddha pillow/wall hangings because I like having smallish things to work on in hot weather when I don't want to be handling gobs of fabric.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Learning Somethig New

I am ignorant about all but the most common birds. I have been walking in the marsh every morning and feeling bad about scaring the "plovers" who have nestlings. They scream at me and fly in circles and sometimes swoop fairly close. They want me out of there. Talking about this to a friend this week, she said, "They could be terns. Terns often nest in the same places plovers do. Do they have round or flatish heads?" I didn't know. She's a native of the area and can merely glance out my window and say, "Sweet little wren." To me it was an LBB [little brown bird]. I went to an old bird book and looked at drawings of plovers and they didn't really look like the birds I've been seeing. I looked at the terns, and they looked a little more like the birds. Then I went to Google for photos and neither one looked much like the birds I've been seeing.

Today I took my binoculars and tried to really, truly look at the birds -- they like to pause on a pier not too far away from the path. I'm sure any competent birder could recognize all kinds of identifying marks. All I really could tell was that they have longer beaks, I think, than plovers, they were almost entirely brown and they don't really have white bellies. When they spread their wings and fly, they have a white "stripe' across their wings and more white on their tail feathers. None of the birds in the bird book looked quite like that. The top bird here is a flying sanderling [from Google]and has the markings I just tried to describe. The second picture is a plover and doesn't seem to be what I see. The photos I found of terns were all white and the birds I see are light brown when they stand still and then show the white when they fly. I'm confused.

I go to the ocean side of my spit of land and I KNOW I'm looking at gulls. I know there are different kinds but these are all the same kind, the crab catching kind at 8:30 in the morning.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Nobody's baby is ever as cute as your own ... or your great-grandson. Objectivity goes out the window. So this is not only to say little Finn is adorable but that his mother, Cori, is making brilliant use of her new camera. I expect many more wonderful photos a he grows. I won't inflict them all on blog readers ... well, that's not an iron clad promise.

Another quilt actually is almost finished, so I'll be back to the subject at hand soon.