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January 2022

Peaceful?

IMG_0328The newest issue of Quiltfolk magazine landed in my snail mailbox today. I had pre-ordered a copy (I no longer subscribe) when I learned that Maryland was this issue's focus (each issue takes aim at quilt making and makers in a different state). Worth every penny I paid for it! :) The photography is excellent and the writing warm and inclusive. Why did I stop subscribing? Not because they were not deserving but because I had to lighten the load of what comes into my house!

I actually got to page 64 before they wrote about someone I did not know personally. (And I think she might have been a customer in my shop:). Learned a lot in my first go-through ... sure to learn more in my next as I am not very in-touch with the eastern shore or southern areas of MD.

This past weekend was quiet and peaceful here chez Schiffer. It snowed about an inch (not the inches the forecast called for - most of that slid northward into NY and the New England area) and was cold, cold, cold all weekend. Sunny outside today. I walked out to get the accumulated mail this morning (hence the magazine in my mailbox:) and the sunshine felt lovely. The snow has not melted any so it has definitely been cold (especially for here abouts).

I spent most of the weekend with my head down, trying to stay warm, doing my embroidery still and some art journaling. I got quite a bit of the posy panel done and am waiting for more thread to come in the mail (thankfully the shop where I bought the original bobbin still carries the brand of thread and has the color I need in stock!:). I started work on the last panel which is one of the largest. Here is part of what I've done so far, a quick pic spread across my desk:

IMG_0327These flowery motifs are corner-wise in the design - one down, three to go.

I also spent a little time last night playing with pigments again while working on the next exercise in Creating Art at the Speed of Life. This was not a completely successful lesson as I lack some of the called-for supplies. We do not have an inkjet printer any more - only a laser jet. Mostly because the inks are just too darn expensive for the yield ... but partly from purchasing inertia. The supply list included a requirement for an inkjet transparency print for which I substituted a clipping from a Dover book (Haecker's Art Forms from Nature). Not sure exactly what the animacule is, really, but it reminded me of octopi. :)

IMG_0324Here is the double page spread. The point of this lesson was apparently to work in multiple layers that would simulate digital imagery manipulation. 

IMG_0325The first instruction was to fill the blank page with asemic writing. That turned out to be both harder and easier than I expected. My normal writing is pretty disfunctional (my son's IEP called him 'dysgraphic' which he gets from me) so I figured it wouldn't be hard to make the 'text' look unreadable. It was really hard for me to just scribble and not make the words readable, though! I also discovered that hand sanitizer makes a good blending solution for Prismacolor pencils. :)

IMG_0326The facing page was supposed to hold our personal critique of the work we made. I settled for making the scribble on the diagonal - which made creating text-like work without meaning _much_ easier. I also recorded my observations rather than outright critique. Shrug.

Other than putter around, I tried to keep my stomach happy and stay warm all weekend. Still deeply appreciating the electric blanket to warm my bed!

:) Linda


Huddling Down

Light-dusting-of-snow-cheryl-trudellWe got a light dusting of snow here yesterday - maybe 1" on our grass but not the sidewalks or street. Definitely dodged that forecast. :) Yesterday, being Friday, was our regularly scheduled Sewing Together afternoon for Barbara, Patty and I. We watched lovely big flakes drift down pretty thickly outside Barbara's patio door most of the afternoon. They got smaller and smaller as the time went by but no less numerous. :)

I am still working on my Chicken Scratch embroidery. I am astonished, truthfully - I rarely manage to sustain such interest in a project. I can safely say I'm sticking to my (admittedly vague) resolution to finish projects this year. Most of January has been devoted to working on this quilt. I mostly finished the penultimate block - am waiting on more green thread to come:

IMG_0323This is one of three posy motifs in the panel. The last flower is stitched but it still needs one more leaf and its stem to be complete.

I spent some time on Thursday evening working in my art journal, too. Still doing the exercises in Creating Art at the Speed of Life. I _think_ this was lesson 8?

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This lesson was supposed to be about using texture rubbings to enhance your work.

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I used a clipping from some lovely papers Patty gave me on Friday to finish my pages.
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I think these pages turned out to look very 'quilty' in the end. :)

I did not make much headway the rest of Friday after I got home from Barbara's house, sadly. My stomach was acting up and I could not concentrate on anything productive. Sigh.

I did manage to do a small spot of housework - I made our bed with clean sheets and the new electric blanket I bought for my husband who is always complaining about me 'stealing' the quilts. :) It was lovely, beyond wonderful, to climb into an already-warmed bed!!

Today is sunny and bright but cold outside. I'm staying indoors, enjoying my handwork. I attended the Quilting with Friends modern group's zoom this afternoon. Started on the last CS embroidery panel while I chatted. This is a big one so it will take several days, I'm sure. There is an FCQ sew-in chat session scheduled via Zoom this evening - if I can remember to go. :)

:) Linda


Toddling Along

Beautiful-Nature-Wallpapers-HD-1280x800I just went to search online for an image to go with 'beauty' and what I got was hundreds of images of women. What a burden for our gender to carry - responsible for the entire concept of beauty! I, when asked, instantly think of nature - waves or mountains or some such (see above:). Shrug.

Today was sunny and not quite so cold as it has been. I did not go outside even once but spent my day puttering around my work desk (well, as much 'work' as this retired person ever does:). I mostly did embroidery to finish up the next panel of my embroidery project:

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IMG_0314I am pleased with this bit ... and it was quite meditative to work. Pleasantly so. :) 

Besides taking care of basics (eating carefully, taking my meds - with major thanks to my friend Kathy Fain who is prompting me daily with visual treats - and reading), I did my hand work and then turned to making a spread in my Creating Art journal.

The lesson for today was making complex backgrounds - which, in a way, I failed due to lack of materials. I really should have used masking fluid to block off white spaces before I watercolored the background but didn't have any. I substituted rubber cement which worked halfway as well. :P Couldn't find my masking tape for blocking off other portions so did without. Turned out ok anyway - and these are things I already know how to do so I don't feel like I completely 'lost' the lesson. :)

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I have been a regular reader of Science News since I was in graduate school (a million years ago). I remember once reading about research conducted to explore cross-cultural ideas of physiological beauty to see if there were any basic 'human' definitions.

The best results indicated that humans in as many cultures as they researched seem to judge that perfect symmetry equates to beauty. Completely symmetrical facial features are actually unusual and the assumption appears to be that this reflects genetic 'purity' or maybe 'fitness' in an evolutionary sense. :)

The quote from Kafka seemed apt to the broader definition of beauty to me.

Now I'm off to watch some more episodes of Daredevil on Netflix and maybe paint some more pretty pages.

:) Linda


Working Again

IMG_0311One of my former employees taught me a lesson that has come back to me this winter with gusto. Alice Magorian told me that she grows at least one amaryllis bulb each winter to keep her mind on life, living things and the advent of hope in spring even through the darkest winter. She bought me an amaryllis bulb that year to grow and the idea sank into my mind deep. This year for the first time since then the concept came back to me and I have been growing this flower amidst the chaos of my kitchen since my birthday in late November. 

This particular bulb came coated in thick wax to be grown without soil or water. So far it is doing well though I think it is suffering somewhat from the low light levels in my house. I am hopeful that I might be able to grow it again next year but I have read online that it is difficult to keep bulbs treated this way alive. What did/do I know? I am just happy to see the lovely colors and to smell the green growing scent each day. :)

Life was quiet today. Not quite as cold outside as yesterday (high in the mid40s) - I went outside twice to take out the recycling for tomorrow's weekly pickup. The birds are not scarfing down seeds as fast as they were when there was snow on the ground so they are clearly able to access other food sources now. There was even sunshine at times that the clouds broke open a bit. :)

I did do a little work in my  Creating Art journal ... but my experiment was a failure (as far as following the lesson plan) in that I did not achieve the effects the author was aiming for. Not sure if it is because of the paper I used (her recommendation), the amount of water I used (maybe too little?), or what. I've done the salt-and-saran-wrap treatment on paper and on fabric before with no problem. Not sure why this one didn't work out. At least the spread worked out fine - pretty colors, good theme. Shrug. 

I spent most of the day doing embroidery (along with making a good supper for my guys and taking care of my stomach by eating carefully all day). I finished the small star block I was working on:

IMG_0312I'm pleased with the way it looks though I did notice (after it was done of course) that I misplaced my starting point. On my version the white squares are prominent in the finished star - on the designer's chart, the dark squares are prominent. :) Not going to make it again! 

I started the next up block - a geometric 'floral' long rectangle - and have it about 40% finished. There are two more blocks after this one and then I'll be done with the embroidery part of my quilt. I'm looking forward to the next steps! Eager to actually get a finish for this year. :)

Tomorrow I have to make some phone calls and then it's back to my needle and thread. Oh the travails of the retired!

:) Linda


Busy Times

NTaXBJt4S1imTnbAGMjG_8I had a pretty intense weekend this past time - my handmade book club had a three day virtual retreat, led by Rosann Whale, with two different books to make and then illustrate. It was called Seasons Gatherings and I enjoyed it although it pushed me beyond my usual comfort limits in several ways. Typically I don't write my deep personal feelings down very often ... maybe from a sense of extreme privacy, maybe from having to keep my opinions to myself for so many business-owning years, maybe from simple avoidance. Who knows (shrug)? Anyway, quite a bit of this workshop was making an art journal that included some deeply personal soul searching ... definitely got into my uncomfortable areas. 

I will be working on finishing up the two books for a while but probably won't share what I've done here until they are finished. Today I started working again on the next lesson in my Creating Art at the Speed of Life journal. I also went to my Baltimore modern guild's Quilting With Friends zoom on Saturday afternoon (try not to miss those:). By the time the Faithful Circle zoom came on Saturday evening I was totally zoomed out! (FCQ would have been my fourth zoom for Saturday.)

I also spent quite a bit of my non-zooming time working on finishing up the next design section of my Chicken Scratch embroidery - the retro-50s coffee pot. This might be hard to see in the photo since it is essentially black and (mostly) white:

Entire potCan you make out the coffee pot? The handle is on the right and the spout on the left above. :) You might have to embiggen the photo to tell.

Pot closeHere is the 'snowflake' motif on the pot's side. This is not my favorite of the ones this quilt has featured so far.

I am finally getting near the end of this project. I _think_ there are only three more sections to go. I am about 2/3s of the way done with a small star block tonight. Hopefully I will finish it tomorrow.

Today was kind of busy. I had to take my son, Hugh to the local Amazon return hub (which happens to be inside the new Whole Foods market in downtown Columbia) to return the motherboard we were shipped from Amazon. We ordered a NEW one and they sent a REFURBISHED one. No go!

Then I went out again an hour or so later to get my annual mammogram. That is not a pleasant experience, to say the least. It never has bothered me a lot in the past ... maybe my achy tummy is affecting the rest of my body? Grumpy. :)

On the way home from the radiology clinic I dropped off a bunch of fabrics and donated blocks to a fellow guild member who has volunteered to make charity quilts from the block of the quarter materials I have been collecting for Faithful Circle for the past year. Whew! A task I am happy to be passing onward - still drafting/writing the patterns.

On the whole, it was a successful day today. Chilly but sunny outdoors. Busy, Busy!

Linda


Winter Gatherings

FriendsIf you click on this image, you can go download the free cross stitch chart from the Fat Quarter Shop (with my thanks to the designer!). Today was a good day to meet with friends to stitch.

It was C-O-L-D today - my husband said it was 9 degrees F when he went out to retrieve our trash bin after the collectors passed around our cul de sac. By the time I left the house around 1 p.m. it was in the mid20s with a nasty cold wind blowing. Gray skies, too. Brr!

I managed to take a shower, eat breakfast and start dinner in the crock pot between 11 a.m. and when I left at 1 p.m. OH, and gather up my embroidery project as well as the new book I bought that Patty and Barbara wanted to look through. Pretty efficient for me. :)

I spent most of my time at Barbara's house helping her decide what to do with the component blocks from her Bonnie Hunter winter mystery project - Rhododendron Trail - which B did not like much. Between the three of us, we turned 30 pink/yellow blocks and 15 purple butterfly blocks into three lap-ish sized designs, two with patchwork borders. I think B was much happier with her project by that time. :) Patty liked one of our layouts enough that I think she plans to make that one with her blocks, too.

I managed to figure out which embroidery block to tackle next (the 'retro coffee pot' design), calculate and cut out the background fabric and start the embroidery. My stomach was unsettled (seems to be its normal state recently) so I did not do any more hand work, just helped arrange blocks and offered ideas. ;) I find it difficult to get into a flow/trance state when I am physically uncomfortable. Shrug

By the time I got home our house was smelling pleasantly of corned beef and vegetables in the pot ... and was warm and cosy compared to the outdoors. I feel great pity for any being (man or animal) that does not have a nest, drey, den or home in this weather! Killer cold. Shivers!

I spent some time in the late afternoon working on my next exercise in Creating Art at the Speed of Life - lesson #5: complementary color schemes. I chose the orange-blue pair for my colors, my favorite complement. :) When I finished and photographed this, I realized it bears a striking resemblance to yesterday's (lesson #4) work. Maybe I'm stuck in a rut (or onto a good thing, depending on your viewpoint I guess:).

IMG_0300Here is the two page spread. I think the colors worked out pretty well. I was surprised how much orange paper I found. Blue is more common. :)

IMG_0301That blue-shirted figure in the bottom left is me, maybe twenty-five years ago.

IMG_0302The author's pages were more heavily decorated with overwriting and hand drawings. I didn't have the urge to do that much work to mine. I think I enjoy the print texture more. 

 

After dinner I watched the recorded video of the Handmade Paper group's first retreat session from earlier this afternoon - Winter's Gatherings. Among other things, the leader taught two quick book constructions that do not require sewing for holding the pages together. I actually managed to make both of the books while I watched the video. Watercolor paper to the rescue! :) The retreat continues with two sessions tomorrow and a final one on Sunday afternoon. I will probably watch at least one and maybe all three in recording as I have other things I have to do at the same times. I will share more of what I make on another day.

Meanwhile I have set in on the embroidery of my Coffee Pot block. This one is pretty big (19" x 22"?) so it might take all week.

:) Linda


Peaceful

Winterbirds_origThese are the kinds of birds coming to my feeders today. We have at least one pair of cardinals who travel closely together that come daily ... and a cloud of little song sparrows (LBJs in bird watcher's lingo - little brown jobs:). The wind was back to blowing today but the sun shone a little. Then it go heavily clouded though we did not get the predicted snowfall. (whew!)

I got to talk to my niece Stephanie for quite a while this morning. We are still exploring alternative housing solutions for my two remaining siblings. Sniff. Amy got called away to her daughter's school for some reason and could not chat with us.

I spent most of today (with the exception of one household chore done) working on my 30 day art journal project and my embroidery panels. I decided to go back to revisit yesterday's art exercise on monochromatic color schemes to see if I could do better. I chose hot pink and sky blue as my hues (still could not settle on just one 'favorite' colorway:). Here's what I made:

LeftpgFirst I watercolored the background paper with hot pink Inktense pigments, then I collaged papers in the blue family on that background. Oh, and four pieces of pretty fabric from my friend Barbara.

RightHere I water colored the background with an intense sky blue, then applied the collage papers in the pink colorway.

TwopgHere are my two pages together in the journal. I liked the quote from Russell and am glad I included it.

I had a good time making these two pages - moving pigments around and playing with print texture/color are among my favorite activities. :)

In the late afternoon I went back to my embroidery. I finished up the flower panel:

Flswhole

FlscloseAn overall and a close up photo of the 'flower' pattern. I quite like this one - could make a very pretty table runner with this design.

I decided to make another, smaller panel during the rest of the afternoon. This was _supposed_ to be a lemon pattern (according to the designer) but I chose to make mine a plum. :) I finished it just after supper.

PlumSo, on the whole, a productive day today! I did not go outside my doors at all ... but it looks damp and dreary outside so that is probably for the best. :)

Tomorrow is Sewing Together with my friends Barbara and Patty. Fun!

:) Linda


Sunshine and Oddities

Istockphoto-1023476960-1024x1024I had a very odd experience this evening. My modern guild in Baltimore has a Wednesday evening Zoom meeting (Sip&Stitch:) which I was attending ... when suddenly my computer made a loud FZZZT! noise and the screen looked like that lovely pixelated mess above ... and the Zoom was history. Then the computer spontaneously rebooted itself. What the??? My son laughed and said it looked like my video card went belly-up but, luckily (fingers crossed!!) it all seems to be ok now. Massive shoulder shrugs here.

Today was not as cold as it has been (high in the upper 40s) as the wind was not blowing. There were occasional peeks of sunshine, even. :) I had a doctor's appointment (routine) in the early afternoon so I got a bit of extra walking in today and soaked up some extra photons. Yeah! :) I have to go back for some routine blood tests and my doctor said the next time he sees me (in the spring) we will be talking about changing the dosages on my meds due to my weight loss. More cheers!

According to that office's scale, I have not lost any weight since my surgeon's appointment last week. Maybe I have landed on one of those notorious 'plateaus'? That happened several times when I was on the Nutri-system diet several years ago. Eventually my body will give up and start losing again. Sigh.

I spent some time this morning (before my outing) working on exercise #4 from Creating Art. It was supposed to be another exploration into analogous color - the starting instruction was to choose my favorite color. Well, that set me off as I cannot pick just one! :) Like deciding which if my children I love best. Snort. So I chose my favorite analogous color combo - red into blue via purple. :)

Here's my two page spread and then each page separately:

Two pages

Left pageAs I worked on this page I got distracted playing with the various Inktense colors in my tin box and totally wandered away from the analogous color scheme.

Right pageHere I made a face drawing (LOVE this technique I learned during the New Year's creative class) and built a small paper collage using some of the scraps I picked up from Photoscraps yesterday.

I enjoyed playing with the pigments again. One part of each exercise is assessing what you liked and did not like about your work ... and what you might try if you did it again. Useful to think about. :) I like that I am giving myself permission not to be perfect ... and to make whatever bobbles/mistakes/errors in judgement happen. The point of the exercise really is to learn by doing. :)

I am spending time this evening working on my chicken scratch embroidery again. In today's mail box delivery came the balls of white Perle cotton I ordered for finishing my blocks ... so I went back to working on the 'five diamonds' design I had semi-finished before. Hopefully I can complete that (and photograph it) by tomorrow this time.

:) Linda


A Few More Rays

SUNRAYSThe skies this afternoon were not quite this clear but this is a bit of sunshine somewhat like what my friend Patty and I saw when we drove to Sykesville. The clouds in our sky were a bit more gray, too. :)

I woke up early (for me), around 9:30 a.m. this morning and have been 'going' ever since. Miracle! Maybe losing some weight is actually helping improve my sleep apnea? One can only hope. :) 

I spent some time this morning talking to the Office of Aging here in Howard County (where I live), Maryland. If you are poor, there are not many options open to you for retirement living. Basically, you are dependent on the good will of family or friends. Sigh. I am not giving up, yet, but I do not see a viable solution for my brother as of now. Still some other agencies to contact.

Patty got the urge to visit Photoscraps in Sykesville this afternoon. Luckily for my frozen body the temperature outside was a 'balmy' 40 degrees or so and the wind had died down. A coat was sufficient, at least for my front yard, to ward off the wintery chill. Shiver!

Our drive was quite pleasant (it takes about 40  - 45 minutes to drive westward into Carroll County where the shop is located). Patty likes to take the back roads which means pleasant scenery - some suburban, some rural, in winter colors. There is still snow in the crevices and shadows on the land ... and we have more forecast for Thursday coming. Definitely winter here. :)

I had ordered some color paper and patterned paper packages from Photoscraps. I did manage to take photos of the cards Lisa made using the same collections (not to say this is what I _will_ make:). There are two sets:

Floral setThe first is called Evening Blooms and these are a few examples of projects using the papers.

Seafaring setThe second set features sea creatures on floral and leafy motifs. I am drawn to this set especially. :)

I am looking forward to working with these pretty papers. Most likely I will make cards with mine though the odd collage is possible, too. :)

I also picked up an opaque white marking pen and a handful of pretty paper scraps they were giving away ... destined to be used in my art journal. It was really nice to just stand in the shop and absorb color/texture/pattern!

I spent most of the late afternoon and evening finishing up my current embroidery section. Here are some not-very-good photos to document this - night time here with little light.

IMG_0278This section features three star-like 'flowers' with green stems. Each is a different color combo.

IMG_0279This is the lowest/brightest colored flower - orange and purple. My favorite, of course. :)

I have a (routine) doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon. Other than that, I plan to keep sewing on my Chicken Scratch project ... and maybe start gathering scraps to piece the sashing for the segments I have already finished. Onward and upward as my Dad used to say.

:) Linda


The Cold Wind Doth Blow

MGoose_1Lots of cold winds blowing here - last night all the way to tonight! The wind is rattling the panes in their frames and I put out extra food for the little birds to ward off the chill. Brr! As absolute cold goes, Maryland never approaches my memories of winter in Wisconsin (forty years ago - my daughter tells me it is not as cold there now) ... but windchill eats the heat from any body. Shiver!

I've mostly had a quiet day today. I spent some time on exercises one and two from Creating Art at the Speed of Life by Pam Carriker. I made the watercolor paper journal this weekend to keep my exercises in and started on them today. In theory, this will be 30 days worth of art play ... but I may not do them every day. I am just enjoying playing with color and paper. :) Here's what I made (each of these pages is about 5.5"x7.5" in size):

Colorwheel

Here I painted a color wheel from just red, blue and yellow watercolors (I used Inktense blocks for my pigments). I mixed the secondary colors (orange, green and ... hey! I just noticed no purple! Drat!) from the primary pigments. The wheel itself was painted and then glued onto the color-washed background page.

Colorwords

The exercise here was to make a random color word image. I interspersed the words with nature images.

I had fun doing these two pages. More in the future for sure. :)

I have also been working on the next embroidery block for my Chicken Scratch block of the month project. This one is called something like Posies. Just starting in on the second of three 'flower' star shapes:

Posie in progressThe first 'flower' is two colors of purple - a grape-y tone and a softer lavender one. The second flower (maybe you can just barely see the inside of my hoop on the right) is orange and purple. I think the last one will be brighter still ... but that color play is postponed until another day. :)

While I do my embroidery, I am watching a new-to-me animated series on Netflix called Arcane. I am really enjoying it - the art work is beautiful, the story line interesting and the music awesome. What's not to like? :) When I don't watch that, I'm viewing nature documentaries on Curiosity Stream. :)

Tomorrow I have two big chores to tackle - I have to dig out and organize my sewing space's repository of blocks/scraps set aside for the charity project at Faithful Circle (one of my two quilt guilds) ... and I have to tackle the Office of Aging here in Howard County to ask for advice on housing my brother who needs to be in assisted living. :P Wish me luck!?

:) Linda