Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Report

Frieda Klein Novel Series (1-7) Nicci French 7 Books Collection ...Our little town of East Ridge, an extension of Chattanooga, has its own library which is quite close to me. If I were a walker of any distance, I could walk there. But of course I don't and won't be for a while, since it is closed to visiting. However, they had a great idea of allowing readers to go online and request books and then they call and tell you that your books are ready for pick-up. The books are always in a bag with your name on it and a smiley face to boot! When the library was open and I could visit, I was especially happy to see that my fave mysteries were numbered on the spine in the sequence they were written, along with the main character's name. What a great way to get into a series.

Looking for book number one led me to books by Nicci French. Blue Monday is the first and the main character is named Frieda Klein, a psycho-therapist insomniac who walks the dark misty streets of London rather than sleep. Lots of murky cold rainy walking. Perfect for a cup of tea and a complicated but involving plot. There are only seven books in the series and each has a day of the week in the title, so even if they weren't numbered I could keep track of which was next. And they have wonderful continuing characters which help in the mystery solving, or are actually part of what needs solving.
The mystery to me is that Nicci French is actually two people, who are married and write these books together. How does that happen? Does one come up with the plot and then they argue about what happens next? Who does the typing and who edits? And still they stay married.
NICCI FRENCH | Author Profile
Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French  who write psychological thrillers together.

As with all good books I am sad when they are over, and wish they just went on and on. Fortunately they have also written stand alone novels which I devoured. 
Lots of you listen to recorded books while you do creative things with your hands, but with this lockdown, and my dwindling interest in quilting, I was happy just to hold a book, with my feet up, snug in my favorite little chair and get into the mystery. Snoozing might follow.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Pivoting Stripe Design Plan

 When it's too hot to go out and play, what does one do?
1. Pray for rain
2. Get out the wool.
City Block Shawl | on Ravelry here | By: terhimon | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

I saw this great looking shawl on Pinterest and remembered that I had a bunch of gray, black and white merino yarn, and while I didn't want to make a shawl, I did want to play around with stripes so it was time to make a new sweater design.
When designing a new knit, there are a few factors to keep in mind. It must be fun to knit, and it must have an interesting construction that is not too complicated. It should be easy to keep track of where I am without having to count individual stitches.  I don't particularly like the initial casting on, so I try to find a way to get started with just a few stitches, and build from there. And I don't want to sew parts together, but there is usually a way around that, after the prototype is completed. I drew up an idea, and made a plan.
This time around my design begins with the back piece by casting on just 15 stitches. My 50 years of experience has taught me that garter stitch is the ideal way to work out an idea, and that is again my choice here. It can always be altered once the design has been accomplished. The alternating stripes of the dark gray and black form an internal frame with mitered corner blocks at all four points. From there I can pick up stitches along the edge of that frame and work either inward or outward, depending on which edge I begin.
My drawing shows what I want to have happen, but it isn't always so straightforward. There was a lot of un-knitting and re-knitting to get the desired effect. And my initial idea of using two grays, a black and white, ended up without using the white at all.
 Here it is on the mannequin, just pinned without the buttons. Nothing like my shawl inspiration but close enough to my drawing to please me. It is a flexible design, because I can easily make it longer by adding more stripes, or wider or narrower and the initial framed stripe section can also change width to suit the size of the wearer. I am off to the races to make this in multiple variations.  Of course on the prototype I had to sew the parts together, but I have already figured out how to make this without seams for the next time around. In this example I seamed the fronts to the back at the shoulders and sides, but also joined parts with a three needle bind-off, one of knitting's greatest inventions.

In previous designs, I have added sleeves, which my drawing included, but after trying this on, I decided that this looks great as a cardivest and stopped there. Now I just have to add buttons and weave in a few loose ends and it is finished. I am calling it Pivoting Stripe Cardivest. 
The size on this model is 44" around, closed, and 25" in length from the shoulder. 100% merino. It will have 6 black buttons I think. 

I have already begun knitting the next one with no seams this time, in multicolors of course. I have a large collection of multicolored yarns which I like to pair with solids and this design lends itself to that sort of combination. 

Just FYI: the praying for rain worked and we had a real downpour with thunder and lightening and lots of resulting puddles today. Yay!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Hanging the art

 Recently we had our walls painted white, from the fashionable gray they were when we bought the house. I needed that clean bright look in order to contrast with the color I tend to use. The dining room south wall was the largest uninterrupted space and the light would enhance the detail of the quilting on this work. Bosna #3, 63" square. (I should have smoothed out the ripples before I shot this pic). 

 Bosna #8, 57x53". I have seven left of the nine in this series. So there are plenty to change out when I get tired of looking at these. This should be referred to as the Leftovers Gallery, as everything that is hung here are the unsold pieces.

 On the north wall next to Bosna #8 are some of my oil still lifes. I tried to select painting to hang together that had some kind of a theme, and edibles were perfect for a dining room, I thought. These are all 12" square canvases. My work in oil paint is pretty much realism, while my acrylics are non-representational.

The narrow walls that are in the eating area of the kitchen hold mixed media works for the most part. An exception is the small fused quilt on the left and the acrylic 'landscape' on the upper right. All are 12" square on canvas, with the quilt mounted on painted wooden panel. The thermostat is not my work and hangs crooked. 

The narrowest wall holds two quilts and a mixed media collage. These are the equivalent of paintings hung over a toilet, but in this case it is the occasionally open kitchen garbage can. Note the complementary colored broom.

The remaining narrow wall in the kitchen holds three of the Less is More series, #4,#5 and #6. 12x9x1" on painted wooden panels. 
In order to hang all this stuff, I had to find it. And there are many big bins which had to be moved from upstairs or from the garage, which was the first hurdle to cross. The larger quilts where in rolls, wrapped up together with other quilts and getting to the ones I wanted to hang meant unrolling them and re-rolling until I found the right piece. After a while I just took the easiest to find.

These two pieces, Bon Bon #1 and #2 are old faves, and luckily were easy to find, and already had been hung in the last three houses. They hang on each side of the dining room window, pretty much in the shade, until the overhead light is on. 
There is a lot more artwork in bins, closets and on shelves, but no more in the garage. And many more walls to fill. I used Command picture hanging strips, which are velcro sticky back. And for the quilts I had to resort to picture hooks and nails, which I don't like using, so I put the nails right up against the crown molding as close as I could get. Then I used nylon fishing line to hang the telescoping curtain rods which run through the rod pockets on the back of the quilts.
Thank heaven for my Pinterest page, or I would never remember the titles or sizes of my work.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

...and then

The Jalape├▒os  (Coolape├▒os) and red onion are from my garden. The avocados and tomato are from the store.  I cheated just for the color. My tomatoes are still getting ripe and of course I have no avocado trees. One can wish. I also grow Ancho and Giant Marconi peppers, but they were not ready for picking either. This is the first year that I planted red onions and they have been doing great. I pull one whenever I need some bright sharp flavor in my cooking. The peppers get pan roasted, covered with a little oil, after I have deseeded and de-ribbed them. Is that a word? Then I fill them with quesadilla melting cheese and serve them with refritos and other Mexican foods. So delicioso. Not hot, either since the hot parts are removed.

Here they are on the plant. 
 We had a lot of lettuce, red leaf and Buttercrunch, but they never got photographed. I gave away a lot, or let them sit too long in the refrigerator. Note to self: plant fewer plants. But they are so pretty in the garden, and amazingly were left alone by the rabbits and chipmunks.
Not pictured were the green beans that were purple and potatoes. The beans are all gone and the potatoes are yet to be finished growing. Tomatoes are just now coming on to ripeness, which is late, imho. It was determined that only one bed was really positioned well for sun, so I reduced my planting to just the necessary tomatoes and peppers and am glad I did. It took a while to admit that I was really the only eater interested in veggies, so now I just buy my cucumbers, squash, and zucchini. 
OK, so what made me want to quit quilting? If you have been a long time reader, you may recall that I was losing interest for a long time and just got back to it because my arty girlfriends were trying to use up their stash, and we got together to make charity quilts. When lockdown hit, I was still able to meet with the two Tuesday quilters and when we finished our projects, I felt it was really time to stop completely. I have a big bin of unquilted tops should I ever need to make a gift quilt, which is highly unlikely, but the desire to piece was never really strong, and it wasn't difficult to let it all go. Shopping for quilt fabric was not a draw for me, nor was amassing a collection. My real focus has always been the painterly colorations of my hand dyed fabrics and the freedom of designing with fusing. Even that has been sidelined for some time. As mentioned, I did keep all the fused fabric, safely rolled in two big bins, upstairs in the new sewing room. 
Here's the greatly reduced sewing room, facing the street, where I have already made some shorts, a shirt and a shopcoat. The room is so happy, clean and sunny and now that the upstairs is barely used, it is a real retreat space. Every Monday when I do the laundry, I hang out here waiting between loads, getting some sewing done, even if it is only making napkins or hemming pants. We took the carpet off the stairs which prevents one dog from coming up, for fear of going back down. So the vast amounts of dog hair are reduced by half, and if the older dog does come to visit, he immediately sleeps on his mat and keeps the shedding to a minimum. 
This room had been the yarn room, which I moved to the back bedroom, where more shelves there are filled with polymer clay stuff, and paint and paper supplies. I have a lot of art supplies. Dave has the master bedroom for his misc. stuff,  altho there is nothing much up there, except some leftover pieces of furniture. Neither of us is up there often. 
We emptied our closets and brought most of our clothes downstairs and overtook the tool room/pantry for them. It took some doing to get the awful wooden shelves (from the previous owners) out of the this space, and I had to ask my friend Patsy to bring her husband Charly and his electric saws over to cut them out. 
Then I ordered the rolling closet system from Home Depot. Everything must have wheels in my house. Instant closet!
Only Hangers Commercial Grade Heavy Duty Double Rail Rolling ... much better. 

We are happier living on one floor for the most part. And of course it is easier to keep clean which was one of the things that frustrated me. I looked carefully at how we really live and that led to making these changes. Neither of us like having to climb the stairs and Dave is falling often now, so why take the risk? Easier than moving house again. Altho I did consider that for a moment. But we would have to give up the things we really love, the quiet cul de sac street, all the trees and space, the fenced yard, and the garden. Not to mention how close we are to things we used often, before the shutdown. We live in the sunroom or the big former living room, now the master suite. It works for us.
A couple of more lily pictures.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Garden Talk

 Spring always arrives with the hope that this year the plants will thrive and that we'll get plenty of free rain to keep them watered. It was exactly that this time around. Having topped off the beds with a wonderful new mountain of compost, purchased and delivered, made me even more confident. Everything was grand until July heat arrived. While sun is great for growth and color, a little too many days of 90+ temps made withering inevitable. Regular prayers for rain is a must. There is a 35% chance today, so let hope flow.

I watch a lot of British garden shows on Youtube and get ideas which I try to bring home to the patch I have. This season I added four new Japanese Maples and a Pink Dogwood to the flower bed. Thankfully they are thriving and have new growth to prove it. But realistically, British weather is not Tennessee weather and I keep having to remind myself of that fact.
When I planted the trees I discovered corms of Calla Lily, on the left here. I transplanted them and they are huge, but alas, no flowers yet! I promised myself not to crowd the plants this time, ha!, and was semi-obedient until I accidentally found a new garden shop with oodles of irresistible plants at great prices.

The Salvia family is a favorite and now Cherry Pink and Desperado Sages have been added.
Desperado Sage is from Texas and has lovely lavender flowers which come and go and come again, while the Cherry Pink is a constant bloomer. These are both new plants to me, and thus have enlarged my collection which include Blue Bedder, Black and Blue and of course the herb varieties of purple, variegated and regular green sage.

We found some reduced for dead Knockout Roses at Lowe's and of course they revived with water and care and have been blooming continually since May. Our neighborhood has oodles of these roses and we are guaranteed that they will be happy in our crap soil, and will get huge with little or no attention from us. I plan on getting more, in an effort to hide the raised beds (bunkers) and assuage my neighbor's complaints. "Why must I have so much trouble with the people who buy your house, making a mess of the yard? And why can't you  have grass like everyone else! It looks like a cemetery!" This from a woman who has only once spoken to Dave, in three years, as he was out there spreading wood chips on the bare clay. Also pictured here are the four fig trees, two of which are loaded with figs and nothing at all on the others. Go figure. 
Last year I planted loads of veggies in the raised beds, which grew only modestly and so this year, flowers were planted and they are thrilling. Zinnias, one of the easiest flowers ever, are jam packed in the end of the bed, next to a disappointingly pitiful few lupins, and then a huge glob of cleome, always guaranteed to make an impact.


And in the last bed, a mess of asparagus amid the anthills. I haven't done a thing to this bed since planting and getting stung by those dirty buggers. But apparently asparagus doesn't need my TLC. It will be a couple of years before we actually start harvesting spears, but I am patient. Dave only began eating asparagus within the last five or so years, so hurray for us that we will have an ample supply, eventually.

Pretty excited about the fig crop. This is a different variety and I am not sure when they will ripen.  It doesn't matter. My sister and I will be there, drooling, with goat cheese and crusty bread.
 Some surprises this year were the brown gallardia that was supposed to be dark red and the unplanned crop of purple basil. Never bought the seeds, they just appeared when I sowed the Mammoth basil. I have more seeds awaiting a second planting, along with a packet of purple string beans, which we had and finished a few weeks ago. 
Tomorrow I will focus on the current veggies. See you then.

Ooooo...PS. I gave away my quilt fabric but I kept all my fused hand dyed fabrics, so I can still make small art quilts. Yay!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

All Good Things

Yes, I have been gone a while but mostly because with the Covid lockdown, there has been little to nothing to write about. And it continues...So what did I do while staying home? I sat in the garden and enjoyed the most perfect Spring. We had regular rain, which made everything grow and bloom and look great, so staying home and enjoying it was no problem. I learned to slow down a bit, and got in the habit of taking a nap every afternoon, which is quite a luxury. I read novels (murder...) and did a little sewing, furniture rearranging and met with my Tuesday quilters. I let my housekeeper go and learned that I can keep my house clean by myself, if I have a schedule, which means a day for doing all that she did, as I learned it from her.
So how boring that would be to write about. 
But around me, lots of interesting/disastrous  things were happening, and I got addicted to reading CNN every morning until I had wasted half my day. The news was so bad, like a train crash, but I couldn't tear my eyes away and hungered for more details. No wonder I needed a nap.  Not good. So I quit. Finally. I had a little withdrawal, but really I am over it.
 And it dawned on me that instead of reading about awful news, I would return to the blog and write about good stuff, of which there really is plenty, if one focuses on it. For example, about the same time as I stopped writing the blog, my sister met a man from our church and they started texting and then met for walking and talking, and pretty soon dating, got engaged and found a house. It's only been since April 3 that this began and yesterday they eloped!!! I am sooooo happy for her and John and they will close on their new house Tuesday! Things moved fast but everyone agreed it was perfect timing. With no one able to congregate, eloping was a great solution. So later when we are able to be in a group, we'll have a party to celebrate, at the new huge wonderful house. In the meantime, they have two houses to sell and the market is wild for selling. A house across from her current home sold in 5 days.
 Here's a picture of my basil. Lots of different varieties, all yummy.
So did I miss not being part of the big (not) wedding, nope! And it made sense not to have a fuss, as she is 54, second wedding, and he is 63, and widowed last year. They are crazy in love and that makes everyone feel good. 
 On another note, totally unrelated, I moved my sewing room out of the sunroom, making it a tv watching room for Dave, and brought all the fabric and machines upstairs, since I was pretty much done with meeting with all the quilters. I sold one of the three machines and its table, and gave the majority of my quilting fabric to my two Tuesday quilters, who don't have a stash at all.  Sometimes an empty shelf is better than a full one.
The remaining fabric was claimed by my sister, so I have only garment fabric left. I have finally given up quilting, after 39 years. That's enough. I want to do something else. Don't argue with me. I mean it.

We are sleeping downstairs in what was the living room and had been the big quilting room (is your head spinning?) and after looking at the original listing photos for this house, I decided that I actually could have a dining room in the space where it was supposed to be.  
I made a tablecloth to match my red dotty plates and napkins too, which was a fun little sewing project. And finally I began to hang my quilts, paintings and collages around the house. It took a full day, up and down the ladder, but so worth it. Finally it looks like my house. 
And in the eating area of the kitchen I put my old dining table on bed risers to make it a prep table, instead of using the shiny black granite counter tops which show every fingerprint. They stay clean longer when I use the white formica table for all the messy stuff. Because it is a counter height, I felt the need for counter height stools and I ordered these online and whamo they were delivered and we love them. Even the legs are leather covered.

OK so we are just about caught up...except now I am in a kind of transition. Done with quilting but still interested in knitting and polymer clay and I may do some paint/paper/collage stuff in the coming months. Actually I am hoping for something to come along to engulf my imagination. I love the idea of getting all wrapped up in a new activity that carries me from idea to design to construction to completion. Haven't a clue to what that could be, so stay tuned.