Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Now I'm Stitching Some Folky Birds

Sorry this is so wrinkled. Bad blogger alert! I've been gradually working on it for weeks and I guess it just got stuffed willy nilly into my handwork bag when I was doing the prepared evacuation stuff. As I've been working on it, the wrinkles are falling out a little. No sense in trying to iron it though. It's just gonna get stuffed back in a bag unless things change soon.
Sunburst quilt and my very weird toes
The appliqued birds were a concern, but they look like they are gonna work just fine. Kinda funny faced, these birds, but perhaps a bit folky too? It's nice to see this project finally starting to come together. There's a long ways to go with it but every bit of stitching will eventually get to a finish some day in the future. There's been times I've definitely wondered if I had what it took to do this one. I've had such a hard time with this particular project, not being able to 'see' what needs to happen next. Originally this one was going to be an 'all applique' quilt, but now I'm reconsidering. Hopefully getting this middle piece done will help me make a more informed decision about where to go next.
Still more to do.....
We are still at level one {lowest} evacuation notice but the fire does continues to spread slowly in our direction. There's been an inversion and lower temps which helps keep the fire activity at lower levels, but still, not much containment so we are all very much on edge. The smoke in this valley has been almost insufferable and we are all very weary of not getting to see our lovely blue skies. My mom and dad left for Portland this morning which will hopefully give them a break and my mother-in-law left last weekend.

Much of the fire coming toward our town is in very rugged terrain, we are not a heavily populated area and plus, fire fighting resources remain in very high demand elsewhere. All of that just makes it a wait and see kind of situation for us. Basically the fire has to get down a lot closer to the Alta Lake housing area {scary for them as about 50 homes burnt up there just last year} before they will be able to put much manpower into making a serious dent in the forward movement of this particular part of the fire. And that's only four miles away from us.*whine, whine, whine....
Nectarine pie
Many new homes have been built up there since last years devastation and so many barely moved back in. Some for less than a month! I cannot even begin to imagine their distress. So I read, stitch a little and well.., yesterday I made pie. Gotta have some comfort food in these trying times. At some point I'm gonna have to pull myself together, get back in the office, and do a boatload of that book work that's piling up. But for now?

I use the same crust recipe my grandmother used, which uses oil and makes for a more rustic looking pie. The recipe is 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup oil {she used vegetable oil  but we use canola or olive oil}, 1/4 c. milk poured directly into the oil, and a dash of salt. Pour the liquid over the flour and salt; mix well with a fork. Add a tiny bit of water if the dough doesn't want to stick together and roll out into two crusts {top and bottom} between two sheets of wax paper. One layer of crust at a time of course! 

The filling for this nectarine pie is easy peasy: 4 1/3 cups of peeled, sliced nectarines, 1/4 c. cornstarch and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Stir the cornstarch and sugar into the nectarines until they are well coated. Pour nectarine mixture into bottom pie crust and then cover with top layer. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until bubbling. About that--I cut a hole in the center and also make about 6 slits before baking, but it always helps to put a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack directly below the pie to help catch the wayward dribbles. It's a really fabulous pie--hot, cold and anywhere in between if you like pie like I like pie.*wink

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Slow Stitching My Day Away

For those that have inquired, we are doing just fine here in Pateros. We have had level 1 evacuation (lowest level) warnings in place for over a week, but so far, the nearest fires seem to be moving away from us.
Keeping it simple...
As far as quilting goes, all I seem to be interested in is hand quilting. It feels very calming to me and doesn't require much in the way of brain power. I did try stitching something a little more complicated on the border of my string quilt, but after seeing part of one border done, I ripped it out and went simple. The quilt thanks me. It doesn't want anything complicated I guess.
Hand quilting done on this one!
I have had various things I consider important to me packed up and ready to go at a moments notice just in case. These are the totes with unfinished quilt tops, basic sewing supplies and quilt projects that are 'in process' but not nearly at the quilt top stage. I also have the quilts that are in the hoop (or fresh out) and of course my sewing machine. Closer to the front door (downstairs) I have things like photo albums, papers, baby books etc. and of course we all have a bag of clothes packed. Scattered throughout the house are also TJMAXX/IKEA bags with about three quilts each in them--only my very favorites and of course the one from my Grandma. We figure we could easily have all of these items out of the house in under 10 minutes if we had to. No sense in putting them in the car unless or until we have a more serious evacuation warning.
Trying to be ready.....
News stories can be very misleading so we have been trying to get our information from more official channels. There is a lot of panic in our valley because of last year of course, but also because of how quickly the fires have grown and changed. So far we have had a small area of relative peace here in Pateros, with evacuees coming toward us rather than us having to flee. 

Here is an interesting YouTube video that shows a Fly Through map of the Chelan and Okanogan Complex fires. At 1:06 you can see exactly where our town is in relation to the fires. Pateros is up on the left corner, under the grid. At 4:52 you can see a broader view of where we are in relation to the fires in our county {we are the green arrow directly below where it says 'Brewster' in the bottom middle of the screen.} And then at 5:12 you can start watching the animated playback of how the fires have progressed and grown from where they were at on August 16. Obviously, the closest {to us} fires combined around that date, maybe just before, and then they have steadily blown past us except in the farthest areas of the county. That's where they still remain largely uncontained. Look for a town called Carlton. That's where the fire started last year that did so much damage to our little town and of course the surrounding areas. Now you know why we are still on level one evacuation notice. Even though the fires are primarily burning away from us, there is still some activity on every side--having the fire be 6-8 miles away from us with a river in between? Not feeling so safe until it's all put out.....

Time to link up to Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching. I don't know about you, but it sure helps this mama stay a little more sane....

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Fresh Perspective

Even though it feels that all I do lately is fret, I am closing in on a finish with my current hand quilting project. Time to pin another quilt top. I do like to stay one step ahead and quilting/color/fabric feels good. It's not like I have the brain power to concentrate on design decisions and such right now anyway. The fire is probably not any closer, but ash is falling everywhere, smoke is choking us and our view is obscured. Fires are {or have been} burning on practically every side of us. I can't even think straight.
Getting ready to pin my Scrap Basket/Rolling Stones quilt
My daughter helped me to move the dining room table out of the way and then because I was already in the mode, it was easy to pin two quilt tops. Might as well. The Scrap Basket/Rolling Stones quilt top is one of my absolute favorites because of the different fabrics and colors involved--that red number fabric for the basket background and mixed light green sashing especially.

Every now and then I make a quilt top that just seems to stand out to me as special in several ways. I'm also extremely fond of the large basket that was pieced {on a whim} with a quickly drawn template, then sewn from little bits in the scrap bin. It was actually the impetuous behind the entire quilt and I cannot believe how 'me' this quilt turned out to be. It's been needing to get in the hoop for a good long while now because it just makes me happy.
A closer look...
The quilt top below is one that I intend to do some machine quilting on--stitch in the ditch etc. After I get all that out of the way, then I will come back and hand quilt some spirals in the pinwheel blocks? I'm still contemplating ideas, but that is my tentative plan.
Mom's Color Challenge Quilt
This quilt is a Kathy Doughty pattern from the Material Obsession 2 book, but our late quilting group made it as a mystery quilt. According to the guidelines set up for us, we gathered or bought our fabric according to warms and cool, then subgroups of types of prints. I can't remember exactly now, but it seems that we had print groups of dots, plaids & stripes, geometrics, medallions, paisleys and also florals. We were supposed to pay attention to print size and try to gather a mixed selection of small, medium and large prints. It was a very interesting approach and we spent quite a lot of time playing with our fabric groupings before committing to the start of the quilt. I didn't mind selecting fabrics according to print type before knowing the specific pattern, but others found it an extremely difficult process.
A closer look...
What I balked at was using a solid white background and then trying to gather engaging {to me} fabrics to go along with it. True white feels so stark and foreign to me that I can't seem to bond properly with it. I could have used solid black {the only other option available to us} but for some reason I went ahead and decided to stretch myself a bit with the white. Good call as it's easy to get complacent within our own comfort zone and start to get stagnant. Using the white made me question some of the fabrics I was instinctively drawn to--made me wonder if they would be a bold enough choice if placed next to a solid. I've always tried to have a well balanced mix of prints in each of the quilts that I make, but making a quilt in this specific manner really helped bring attention to individual choices made color by color. It definitely solidified how truly important the details can be, reinforcing a thoughtful but hopefully, instinctive process. Hindsight makes it very clear that this quilt top has been key in how I got to where I am now in terms of choosing fabric prints for all my quilt projects.

Having said that, this quilt is not something I'm very excited about. As a whole, it doesn't feel completely like a 'me' quilt. It doesn't dazzle me, melt my heart or make me feel especially happy. Not that I'm embarrassed or ashamed of it! It just is. So.... coming back now and looking at it with fresh eyes allows me the perspective of seeing the little, tiny bit of myself that I managed to instill into the quilt--regardless of how limiting I felt the perimeters to be. That's kind of interesting because I really couldn't see it before. And it's in the finish-it-up queue now because I fully intend to be giving it away soon. Don't you think it needs to go live with someone who will more fully appreciate it? Ha  Lets see if it survives round two of August fire season first....

Monday, August 17, 2015

Another One of Those Crazy Weekends

It's been one of those crazy, busy weekends that seem to be the new normal around here. Lots of great family time with me going a hundred miles an hour trying to keep up on all the dishes, laundry and cooking. My sister helped me to make nectarine pies for the first time and wowsers, those are the bomb. I discovered that I absolutely adore nectarine pie!
The Eagle Quilt
I managed to work on a little, tiny, bit of  hand quilting here and there, but wanted to show you the applique that got finished up just before the hordes descended. There are over a hundred leaves in the border so it got a little tedious at times, but I love the variety of the fabrics in the fabric print. At first, turning under the seam allowance {and losing that full, larger leaf look}, I started to worry that my leaves were too far apart to look good. Now I can see that it turned out just fine. The berries are not everyone's favorite addition, but personally, I love the little sparks of red.
Another border finished up!
In other news, we have had a very nervy weekend. Much too similar to last years fire experience to sleep well at night. Starting early Friday morning, there was a thunder and lightning storm that started off a bunch of small fires that of course, grew quickly in the high temps we've been experiencing.
Across the river and over the mountain...
The entire county has been on level one evacuation notice with some areas on level three. Oh, it makes us so jumpy. Both of these pictures are taken right here in the town of Pateros. The top pic is from my mom and dads porch and the bottom pic from our own porch later that same night. My mom had to drive past several fires burning directly alongside the highway just to get home that evening and her nerves were totally shot.
Looking in a completely different direction, just over the mountain...
We have not at all been enjoying the feeling of being nearly surrounded by wildfires again, but so far they have not jumped either river that borders our town or directly threatened us. We all have this feeling of impending disaster though which makes it very hard to settle and it doesn't help to know that these same fires have already jumped the Columbia river in two different, more narrow, places downriver.

The town of Chelan however, just 24 miles away, has been experiencing much the same sort of devastation that we faced last year. So scary and heartbreaking for them. It's a much larger town where our oldest daughter works, we do our banking, grocery shopping etc. and do most of the work for our landscaping construction business. Too many wildfires in the state to take care of all of them properly so they are working to save lives and homes first. It's obvious they have made a tremendous effort to save the town of Chelan though and of course, some of us cynically wonder if it helps to have the millions of dollars in tourist money supporting the town to garner the quicker response. Also, two state senators have vacation homes there so I'm sure that helps as well. Not that any of this helps initially {or afterward when faced with lost homes and possessions} as the fires did a crazy amount of damage before they actually started getting brutally serious about trying to stop the inferno from leveling the entire town. 

I think this new way of 'managing' fires instead of trying to put them totally out {at the first sign of fire} is completely out of balance. The wind picks up, changes directions and all of sudden they have huge 'unforeseen' problems. Hopefully with these latest disasters, the state will take a good hard look at communication issues, initial response efforts and fire fighting protocol. There were many, many years during my childhood when wildfires were raging throughout the outlying mountainous areas and never were they allowed to get so out of control that entire towns were at dire risk. And yes, I do know that fire resources get stretched very thin when the amount of fires statewide increase. Okay, off my soapbox and done with my rant! I'm not sure how much quilting I'll get done this week as we all seem to be glued to our phones and computers trying to stay on top of local fire news.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Green Floating Squares Experiment

I've been plowing through the floating squares quilt as it is a very messy project. Working on this sort of quilt just sort of takes over the quilt room! And wowsers, late yesterday evening I was rewarded with a finished quilt top. Minus a bit of trimming of course.
Floating Squares quilt top
All along I kept auditioning fabrics and trying to 'look ahead'. It really helps me to not give up and just throw it all back in a bin, always very tempting to me. This style of quilting is just crazy awkward to me!

I so wanted to keep on using the oldish bits of green fabrics from the very bottom of the tote and except for about three or fabrics, every single fabric in this quilt has been with me for at least two plus years! One fabric in particular, the dark green polka dot, was bought between 1993-1995. So amazing that I didn't already get rid of it and why not, you may ask? Our income has been a fluctuating thing through the years. I do not get rid of fabric easily or well. There is this very real fear of fabric deprivation you know!*wink
All the blocks on the wall, auditioning fabric....
You might also think that I stole some blue for this quilt, but believe me when I say those fabrics were in the green tote as well. You know how some fabrics look green or blue depending on what they're lying next too? These are those kinds of fabrics and they always ended up back in the green tote because they look more green than blue. {Unless of course they're in a green quilt!} I will admit to making one more intensely thorough search through the green tote though. And that's where I found the brighter/bluer greens that seem to wake up the more boring greens. The first time through, I thought they were too brassy to be included.
Playing with a bit of pink
And at some point I decided to break my own rules and add a spot of another color {pink}. I didn't want to introduce too much, but it just seemed to be crying out for a bit of spark. Red was considered too, but it always shrieks 'Christmas' to me unless done very carefully. haha  Does this look like a careful quilt?
Sewing rows and deciding on placement....
As I worked through sewing the rows together, occasionally I had to make a square a bit longer. I just added a skinnier strip of fabric to extend the length and then put the pink right at the end. Kind of a cornerstone, but not exactly. I was going to do this for every single short block and then decided, no, a little pink goes a long way. Instantly, I could see the pink was going to be a perfect addition in very small doses.
One row at a time
I had to force myself to keep using all the ugly greens and not just pitch them aside. One of the things I admire most about the Gee's Bend style/make-do and utilitarian type quilts is the fact that the makers are very courageous about blending fabrics. So very bold and unapologetic. The unexpectedness of some of these extremely different fabrics being used  in the very same quilt {even side by side} always makes me smile, but when it comes to my own work? Totally different story! In this quilt I managed to use an old, (ugly) floral batik, an 80's style calico with pink roses, that hideous dark green/cream polka dot, and even a cactus print that I'm positive was given to me. I would never, ever have bought that!

 There are things already apparent to me that could have been done differently. For instance, I wish I had been more careful in how the horizontal strips of green were staggered. A slightly better placing could have possibly allowed the quilt to have better flow and movement. But it's done, I have to feel good about that. And the fact that it looks interesting to me {there on the wall} when I walk around the corner into my quilt room--success of some sort, don't you think? Linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hey, Whatever Works....

First there were four Vintage Red blocks and now there are eight. That means I'm either half through with them or maybe a third? Depends on how many I decide to make. They are super easy to stitch, but I have to take a break and switch them out with something else or I will probably go insane.
Vintage Red blocks on the wall
It could be that I'm already there. We all live in our own little reality don't we? lol  I worked on the Floating Squares score over the weekend and looky, looky....  I am making them into blocks again.*sigh  It is the only thing that makes sense to me so I finally quit fighting it and just continued on my merry way. It actually feels more comfortable this time around and I am thinking it must be the all green theme plus using my older fabrics.
Floating Squares in the works....
There is only one or two fabrics in the whole mix that I would love to have a bit leftover for working into other projects. Every other one could completely be used up and I'd only cheer! That does cut down on the 'what if I totally screw this up' factor which makes me more ambivalent about the outcome too. Not such a great feeling when hello? I'm putting my time into a quilt that I feel 'ambivalent' about? So I'm sorting through all those emotions and forging ahead anyway because I think I might actually be learning something. These blocks look okay, bad and terrible and yet, they seem to be getting slightly better with practice? Slightly more wonky even if only I can see the difference.

There's another very odd thing happening during the time I'm working with these mostly old, really tired fabrics. I am digging and pawing my way through the fabrics totes during short {okay, it's really quite longish} breaks and thinking/dreaming up new and wonderful future projects. What's up with that?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Little Bit of Fun in the Quilting Room

I'm always stalking the clearance bin at the {somewhat} local quilt store for backing fabrics. It's much easier to pay $4-6 a yard for the back of our quilts rather than $9-12, right? So when this pretty floral caught my eye, I went ahead and bought the rest of the bolt {not quite 3 yards}.
Muddy Creek
I'm not at all shy about mixing and matching my backing fabrics so I generally buy whatever odd measurements they have left--I'll figure it out later. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I was combing through my completed quilt top drawers and saw how perfectly this floral went with my Muddy Creek quilt! Bingo! Adding this border not only lightened and brightened the quilt but it also brought it up to approximately 60" x 70", a much better size than it was. Oh I am such a sucker for these sweet floral prints and of course there's still a little chunk left for use as backing...
A little bit of prep work...
I've also made a few tentative plans for going forward with my Scrappy Lone Star quilt. For some reason I have it in my mind that this quilt needs to be a rectangle instead of a square. This could be problematic as the lone star is very much the focal point and quite square-ish. Hmm....
Scrappy Lone Star
What to do, what to do. First off, I added the narrow red border, thicker on the vertical length and next I'm going to add a green/blue border to the top and bottom of the quilt. My basic plan is to wing it! Uh huh. That and add some nifty words and maybe a funky vine too. We'll see. I must be fairly committed as I went to the work on preparing all the bias vine already!

Looking at these two quilts, I am just amazed at how diverse my tastes are these days. Both of these completely melt my heart and yet they are very different. Isn't that a beautiful thing? Quilting opens up the doors to so much opportunity to play and go where our curiosity leads us. What about you. Do you feel that your quilting style is expanding with your experience or is it just changing to something else altogether than where you started? I know there are a few things that I've left behind {style-wise} in my journey, but mostly I feel like I'm carrying the very best parts with me, step by step, quilt by quilt.
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