Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jane's Exotic Garden

Happy New Year to you! Waking up to a new year and a whole bunch of fresh possibilities is always exciting. I am one who sets goals and makes them come to fruition. It isn't so hard if they are reasonable. Then looking back at the end of the year, I realize that I have not only accomplished my goals, but something surprising and unexpected, too.

In 2014, I completed a year of apprenticeship with Darcy Williamson, a veteran herbalist from McCall, ID. I graduated to Senior Apprentice a few weeks ago and am proud of my accomplishment. What this means is that I have mastered the following skills well enough to teach them: pulverizing herbs and making capsules, harvesting and garbling seeds from wild plants, making tinctures from roots, leaves, flowers, and mushrooms, and bottling and labeling them, preparing salves with the correct consistency, making soap and packaging it, setting up and using the distiller to prepare hydrosols and essential oils, and dissembling and cleaning the distiller, taking inventory of the studio and stocking the shelves, and foraging and sustainably harvesting wild plants from the forest  for various uses throughout the year.

Now I can use my skills to teach classes or seminars, write monographs on the pharmacology of wild plants, assist Darcy in programs she gives, and develop and market my own line of herbal products. Creating my own logo is on my goal list. My arnica and brown's peony root salve is very popular around here for easing aches and inflammation, and treating bruises.

In other news, I completed my December sewing goal (shown in the last blog post) but did not get it blogged in time for the end of the month finish. I sent it off to mom, a soft and snuggly lap quilt with a wild purple binding from Jane Sassaman's line, called, "Jane's Exotic Garden." The backing is the softest, thickest flannel, Moda's needle felted cotton flannel.

love me some selvedges
My goal for January's A Lovely Year of Finishes is to complete 4 quilted purses that I started last summer. I blogged about them here and completed one for the Michael Miller challenge. These will need some embellishments and hand quilting to add zippy eye appeal. I haven't decided who will get these, or whether I will sell them in my etsy shop...

4 seasons: snowflake, crocus, orange creamsicle, and zinnia.
The bags have magnetic snap closures, which are inexpensive and very simple to install. They also have lots of pockets including inside elastic pockets. The handles are sturdy quilted fabric, and the whole bag is safe to launder. I have already put them together, but they are begging for some dressing up, don't you think?

which one is your favorite?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wait For It

If you are anything like I am, you want conditions to be just right before starting that next blog post, or that epic project. Here's the good news: there is no such thing as the perfect condition. So, jump in, the water's fine.  It is a drizzly Saturday morning here in the Seven Devils Mountains of central Idaho... Mr. Thimblepie is fishing on the Salmon river today, so I have uninterrupted time to create. I don't have to be at work for 2 hours. I even have photos uploaded for this post. Sounds pretty close to perfect.

I have been wishing for a design wall for my studio. With the slanted ceilings I thought a folding screen would be just the ticket. Guess what I found by the trash bin when I was cleaning the shop last week??? A gorgeous wooden folding screen. Here it is, with my December sewing goal draped over it.

 The screen is painted black with natural wood cross pieces. I will tack a flannel-backed table cloth to the back and it will be perfect for my studio. The little quilt top is 40 inches square. It is styled after Freddy Moran's quilts. It was a fun learning stretch. I used a tiny pack of pastel strips given to me by my generous sister, Pam, to create the melon shapes. The black and white polka dot borders are made bias tapes sewn in a technique I read in Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, I think in 2008. In the upper left corner, the melon has a strip of turquoise for eye movement. I pin basted this top with some luscious brown needle felted flannel from Moda for the back. It is going to be a lap quilt for my mom, Melva Hutchens, who lives in a care facility due to her Alzheimers. She always loved red and black. The nice thing about making this for her, if it arrives late, she won't mind. And so the usual holiday pressure to get 'er done and in the mail does not apply. YAY.

In other creative news, I finished a darling swirly circle skirted dress for my youngest grand daughter's birthday. She turned 5 a few days ago. This dress was started by none other than my sister, Pam, who passed it on to me. Here is the lovely finish, complete with a fancy pearl and gold button and gold trim on the pink tier.

back view
I also finished a commissioned Seahawk baby quilt. It has some green pleather for textural interest, and blue satin binding, something different for me. The back is softest royal blue minkie, so I did minimal quilting, echoing the diagonal strips. The lining is a piece of flannel sheet. The top strip is steel grey.

I can't show you my other epic creations, they are holiday surprises. I will share them at the end of the month. Happy Holiday sewing, and please, don't wait for the perfect conditions, go for it!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Artist's Totem

I have been writing morning pages as in "The Artist's Way" for a year. I began 11/19/13. One result has been that I complete a lot more of the projects I start. I also credit ALYOF, the blog I joined 2 years ago that has challenged me to set a monthly goal to finish a UFO, and then to finish it, and to blog about the process. Let me state before I get too deep, that it is progress, not perfection. 

Intro: Traditional Tlinget button blankets are red and black, embellished with mother of pearl buttons. This image, The Soul Catcher, was designed by Martin Oliver for the University of Washington school of public health, in 1981. It is trademarked and I have no intention of selling this art piece. It is imitation, the sincerest form of flattery, and is for my own home. The image is two bears, and symbolizes physical, emotional, and spiritual well being through education, research, and service.

I have completed the top of my wool applique button blanket. I started it and blogged about it here.
Hopeful Beginnings

I am excited to be on the brink of the next step, which I think is layering and basting the top in preparation for quilting. 
Embroidery around the mouth? 
         Here is the top with vintage shanked mother of pearl buttons on the left side. I LOVE IT!! 

I need to do some research on how best to quilt solid wool applique. I am thinking about some echo quilting in matching threads. 

Totem is derived from a Native word meaning, kinship group. It is used loosely as a guardian, or spirit guide. In "The Artist's Way," one of the creative tasks is to create an artist's totem. It can be any symbolic thing, such as a doll or carving, that you feel protective fondness toward. It is to be given a place of honor, and then honored by not "beating up on your artistic child." Being creative means letting go of old hang-ups and fear of success. What is your totem?

Just a little more self-promoting: the icon on the upper right, Imaginegnats, is a link to a site with wonderful fabric and patterns. If you want to find some unique fabric at great prices, click on the link. If you go through my blog to purchase her fabric, I get a 10% commission. Win-win. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

October Bites the Dust

And here it is, All Hallow's Eve... and a Friday night, too... It has been a productive month here in my sewing loft. I completed my goals for the Lovely Year of Finishes, and for the Quilt Auction, too. A few highlights of the auction:

Jeanne Dyer's gourd masterpiece

Tresa Shearer, Auctioneer, and the auction set up

Marcie and I show a Quilt of Valor

I explain Operation Kid Comfort and show an example

Amy and Ruth compare stitches 
 I wish my donations brought in more cash, but the crowd favorites are quilts with wildlife panels. Duly noted. Wall hangings of panels and wool applique crafts are other favorites. Just getting through it, as one of the worker bees was a satisfying accomplishment.

Now I can focus on holiday sewing, and the myriad December birthdays that I will commemorate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Magic is Brewing

I am glad for goals, they keep me on track. I have a list, and labeled it with priority codes (A,B,C) so I can check on my progress. Some of you know that I will even add a completed task to my list, just so that I can cross it off and feel accomplished.  I have two very important October birthdays, one that I can report on without too much fear of spoiling it, my oldest granddaughter Grace turns 11 on Sunday the 12th. She recently became interested in American Girl Dolls, and said she'd like new doll clothes. She has sewn some herself, which is how yours truly began sewing back in the day. Here is what I made for Grace, a set of night shirts for her and her doll.

Giant rickrack border.

Sweet tag says "Grandma loves you."
The Pinehurst Quilters have a yearly auction to raise money for fun and for the community, and my October goal for ALYOF is to quilt these tops for the auction. A fall snuggle quilt, which also needs a border, and a  bed runner and dresser topper set, The snuggle quilt is 40" x 60."

Fun close up.

The bed runner is 48" x 74" and whispers classic dreams. I started this with the intention of making a big quilt, but it didn't fit the project, and has been waiting for a purpose until now.

There is a little border interest in the upper right.

Blue and ecru love.
The dresser topper is 24" x 50". Nice use of some left over blocks.

Our fall here in the Rocky Mountains of West Central Idaho is still warm, and the garden continues to produce. I ran out of pint and half pint canning jars, so it is time to can tomatoes, and rhubarb compote in quart jars. I made chokecherry jelly last weekend, and as soon as I acquire more small jars I will make elderberry capers. The fruit this fall has been abundant, and so I stay busy drying, freezing, and canning lots of deliciousness. On Wednesdays I get to go to McCall and take herbalist classes from Darcy Williamson. This is mushroom harvesting season, and we find all kinds of different mushrooms, many of which are truly magical. Here is my friend Brandy, carrying a large artist's conk.

What does fall look like in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Old is New

Just at the last minute, I got my September goal for ALYOF completed. My 40's silk log cabin quilt top, aka "Eleanor Roosevelt," got a border. The quilt colors are a mixture of soft  dusty tones, and a few bright fuschias and mangoes. What to use to bring out the sparkle? Everything-old-is-new-again-grey. I think it works. The quilt really came to life, from blocks that were thrown away.

The border might need to be narrower.  A wild, orange and pink binding would be fun.  The blocks were sewn to flour sack backs, and a few flour sack prints. Just like depression era underwear ! I hate to cover them up. Since I interfaced the border, and the blocks are all backed, maybe I'll use a sheer backing and no batt, I can still hand quilt it but leave the sweet flour sacks visible.

Flour Sack Sweetness.
It is destined to be a wall hanging. So perhaps I can make a sheer or gauze backing work. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode...

Friday, September 5, 2014

My New Favorite Aroma

I used to think there was enough wonderful fabric in the world without my adding to it by buying more and dying it different colors. I even tried a class on dyes, but was turned off by the hazardous chemicals and the precautions. Then I was introduced to earth friendly fabric dying by my artistic pal, Betsy Hinze, and heard the siren song. Or, as Mr. Thimblepie says, I drank the kool aid.

Last March I learned about mordanting fibers with plant protein, namely soybean water. After soaking the beans, the water was used to prepare the fabric for accepting the dye. I let the silk, linen, and cotton rest for 5 months. Betsy told us that Japanese dye masters have aged mordanted fabric for decades sometimes. Meanwhile, I saved avocado peels to use for the dye. Yesterday I started the simmering and was delighted to discover that the aroma is citrusy and like a walk in a pine forest. I  simmered the peels in a crock pot for the night, and gave the vat a full 24 hours of heat. Then I strained off the peels and added my fabrics in a big enamel pot. I also added a piece that turned out to be polyester, it did not take the dye. The silk, when added to the avocado brew, gave off the MOST WONDERFUL AROMA I have ever smelled. It beats fresh bread, sheets dried in the wind, and my own newborn's honey scent. True story. The aroma of silk in avocado brew is a combination of the citrusy piney scent and floral spice, something like Japanese tea gardens and hot house flowers mixed together. If I could add a scratch and sniff to this blog, I would.

How funny is it that the bland and stodgy avocado taste is so disparate from it's cooked peel scent? And then there is the equally surprising color.... dusty rose. Here is a peek at my clothes line, with my sister Pam's quilt, Tumbling Triangles, and my dusty rose fabric drying in the breeze:

Clothes line cross tie repurposed from a dead apple tree on our lot.
 At the other end of the property is our veggie and fruit garden, deer proofed. We grew lima beans this year, a very satisfying crop. The beans are so pretty.

All told we will have about 5 lbs of beans, dried, from one package of seeds.
I read an interesting article in The Quilt Life, "Brown's Sophisticated Cousin." It is about the movement of Japanese taupes into mainstream quilting. I think my dusty rose dyed fabric is leaning toward being taupe, especially the cotton. I  have a baby quilt to make in soft natural colors, and the taupe and dusty rose seem just the ticket. The baby is due around Thanksgiving, and now I can ponder the design.

My September goal for my group, ALYOF is to finish the quilt top I started in April, a vintage silk log cabin. I'd like to hand quilt it, and need to add a border and baste it. Here is the top so far, (I posted it in April, too,  if it looks familiar.)
My Eleanor Roosevelt Quilt.
I am thinking that some of my newly dyed fabric will make a nice border. Audition is tomorrow. What does your weekend hold in store?