Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ojibwe Hot Mess Quilt


I finally found a moment to finish this quilt; what with all the jetting around and mountains of dirty laundry and blueberries to be picked, it’s been a bit hectic around these parts.  But here she is!


I saw this photo and my little heart skipped a beat.  The original quilt is called “Chippewa Nine Patch”, designed by Laurie Simpson and Polly Minick, two sisters from my home state of Michigan (you Michiganders will note that “chippewa” is really “ojibwe” but I forgive these things) and I just fell super hard for all those little motley nine patches, and the flowery chintz alternate patches.


I don’t like to use a quilt pattern (sorry, pattern people) because I feel I can mostly just look at the picture and figure it out.  What do you think your old great-granny did, anyway?  Besides which, I have a couple of math whizzes in the house, and so my sixteen-year old son happily reviewed me on the Pythagorean Theorem (he likes to prove he’s smarter than I am, and so he is.  What are you gonna do?) Armed thusly, I figured out the hypotenuses of all the different triangles.  Oh geometry, you confound me!  And I don’t even want to tell you what happened at the edges—let us just say I have experienced the consequences of ignoring the conventional wisdom about the right and wrong time to cut things on the bias.  It ruffled like a tutu.

Then, mid-stride, there was the first Bernina Breakdown of 2011 (more will follow, I’m sure) and I thought to maybe wait on the quilting until Tom the Repair Guy could get her fixed, but I am an impatient little magpie who can’t leave a thing like this unfinished.   The sturdy little Kenmore rose to the occasion and, walking foot in place, got the job done. 


It just did not want to photograph well.  I tried all my tricks, and so did Picasa, to no avail.  It’s kind of an impressionist mess, isn’t it?  A busy, flowerdy, tone-on-tone yard-sale of fabrics, a big, noisy, hot mess of a quilt.  Which, of course, means I love it. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Treasure From the Sea


I love beach glass, made when the sea turns broken Heineken bottles into frosted and glowing little pieces of treasure.  Until a few weeks ago, I had never before found a single piece (which the awesome Shell remedied by sending me a little parcel of goodies found on her lovely home beach—my very first sea glass!  Shell is fab.) 

Shell’s glass was so pretty and I wanted to make some jewelry with it, but it seemed too precious, and so I just looked at it, admired it. 

Then we went to Bastiamento Beach, Vieques P.R. which, it turns out, is one of the best sea glass-finding beaches in all the world.  There was glass everywhere.  Everywhere.  As in, I dared not go barefoot.  Most of it, it must be said, was not quite cooked yet, and the difference between broken bottles and treasure from the sea is a lot of time and wave-action, so we threw some back for the waves to work on awhile longer, and also actually picked some up and put it in the trash so nobody would lose a toe.  There was so much broken glass on Bastiamento Beach that I wondered whether people are chucking their beer bottles into the water there in order that there will always be more sea glass?  Amongst all the deadly-looking shards, we found lots of lovely tumbled pieces and I made this pendant from one of them.  It is the color of the Caribbean Sea. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Postcards from the Caribbean


This is Isla Vieques, an unspoiled tropical paradise off the coast of Puerto Rico.  Feast your eyes on that, would ya?  Seriously.  If I were a pirate, I would’ve hauled my creaky ship up onto that beach and lay in the shade of its hull, drinking rum from a wooden cask.  In fact, some actual pirates might well have done that.  Shivver!


It looked like this everywhere.  Just everywhere I pointed the camera, and these photos are unedited, since none was necessary.  Hoo!  Can you believe that?


Can you stand one more palm tree?  That up there was the view from our porch.  Why move, really?  Well, because there was one after another beach like that, and they got more and more beautiful as we plied the island in our rented jeep. 


The town looked like this.  I loved these rusty barriers.  Almost every house had them on their porches, and doors and windows, and they were so beat-up and beautiful, in every style and design.


This is the casita where we stayed, a little hut in the jungle with no windows and an outdoor shower.  We’d come home from the beach all salty and sandy, and then the shower would be full of tree frogs peeping away to each other, and the cicadas were singing (friends, those things are loud) and Dean brushed all the big scary tropical spiders out of there so I could bathe under the Caribbean stars.


We did have a roommate.  This guy—we named him Steve-- lived on the curtain, and he made sure there were no mosquitoes.  Which there weren’t.  Good work, Steve.  

This guitar was in the hut when we got there.  Dean spontaneously composed a few verses about how beautiful I am.  Oh, swooon!



We walked for miles and miles on ten different beaches, and almost never saw another soul.   We’d come to a little rocky headland and pick our way around it to the other side, where we’d find a pirate cave filled with Tarzan vines and draped with hibiscus blossoms.  There was nobody else on the beach, nobody at all.


We did find some pirate treasure, and a half-coconut shell to collect it in.  There were pina coladas and frangipani trees and swimming at night under a million stars.  There were fresh bananas with paper-thin peels that were as sweet as candy.  We snorkeled in eight inches of water and saw tons of tropical fish, feeling all intrepid and Jacques Cousteau-ish until some old ladies carrying a cooler stepped over us and made me snort water up into my mask.


This is the waiting lounge at the Vieques airport. I am the color of a caramel apple.  Life in the islands is very good.

Back from the Islands


Oh my goodness, so much to tell.  But first, a little laundry.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Are you looking at me?


Such is the lure of all your beautiful blogs with all the lovely little projects.  I have crocheted a cozy for my phone, using this pattern, seen at Annaboo’s House.  She made one and I thought the stitch pattern was so cute and, heck, I have yarn that exact color, so…right, here it is.


I have no restraint.  None!  I have so many things that are half-done, and do a need a little cozy for my phone?  No, no I do not.  In fact, and this is the funniest thing ever, when my phone rings, I am invariably halfway across the house and I can hardly hear it.  I’m all, “SHHHH!  Is that my phone ringing?  Who’s phone is that?  Is that your phone, or mine?”  Then I trot over to where my bag is hanging and rummage around for awhile, feeling around in the dark amongst the sunglasses and lip gloss and stray coupons, and the phone is just ringing and ringing and finally, just as I locate the thing and click to answer it…it goes to voicemail. 


So this adorable little thing, which looks like a clutch handbag my grandma would have carried to do her duty at the USO in 1944, oh swoon, with its two little buttons, is probably just going to complicate things as far as being able to answer it before it stops ringing, things which are bad enough already, as I’m fumbling with it—once, I dropped it in the dog’s bowl—so I don’t know why I do these things, other than the main reason, which is that they are so dang cute

And also, I feel it is looking at me.


You feel it too, don’t you?  Come on, you do. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Cottage Blanket


It’s all finished!  Wanna see?


This blanket reminds me of potted geraniums, white wooden porch rockers, fireworks, and a white-hot summer sky, mid-July itself.  I want to put this on the bed upstairs in the summer cottage, in the room facing the lake, and then flop down on it with a stack of Richie Rich comics, Nancy Drew books, and old issues of Tiger Beat, with a fan pointed directly at my head.


I’ll stir up some Wyler’s lemonade drink mix in a jelly glass with Yosemite Sam on it and lie there sipping it through a straw, listening to the boats going by, watching the curtains flutter.


Later, when I’m all sandy and sunburned, I’ll wrap up in it and lie in the hammock, and Grandma will bring me a big wedge of watermelon, dripping and cold.


If I had a summer cottage, that’s what I’d do.


I started this blanket back in March, and have honestly loved working on it.  I used up a huge amount of leftovers, and added most of the pink geranium-ish colors as I went along, as it evolved into itself.  The ice blue border is four skeins of Ella Rae Amity, which is a wool blend, chosen purely for color.  (I will go with 100% wool when possible, but color is always my first consideration.)  The yarn used is mostly a mix of Patons Classic Merino, Ella Rae Classic, and Berroco Vintage, but there were a couple stray things from the crafty thrift store thrown in, again purchased for weight and color, and since those are other people’s leftovers, I have no idea what they are. 


I made 42 granny squares of 11 rounds each, in worsted weight yarn with a US size F hook, piling them up in a basket.  When they were all done, I wet-blocked them by soaking the squares in a sink of tepid water, then carefully squeezing the water out and smoothing them on the porch floor to dry.  I am a big fan of blocking your work—it made the squares so nice and floppy and orderly.  Then I chose (at the last minute) the yarn for the borders and crocheted the last round of each square in that color, joining as I went.


For the edging, I worked five rounds of (US) single crochet, and then a round of simple shells:  sc; skip one sc; sc, dc, ch1, dc, sc in same space, skip one sc, repeat. 


This one turned out just exactly as I hoped it would.  How often can you say that?  It is just right, just perfectly summer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Granny reaches the bell lap


I never really know which one of my way too many ongoing projects is going to jump the line and start clamoring for my attention.  Never before have I left a quilt sandwich to sit and wait while something else came up.  It’s all ready to go, and the little Kenmore is shined up and waiting, but the lure of the grannies proved too much to resist.


I’m on the edging—the very best part!

Monday, July 11, 2011



I love getting to this point, where I can finally see the whole thing, and its got its three layers and is almost, almost a quilt.  But I am not a huge fan of crawling around on my knees putting 200 safety pins in something, and I don’t actually know how anybody does that differently.  Where are you all basting your quilts?  I always have to move all the furniture (which means I have to vacuum, whoops—first I have to change the vacuum cleaner bag which is completely full of dog hair; well, first I have to go to the hardware store to get more vacuum cleaner bags; oops, can’t do that yet because I haven’t showered; don’t want to do that until I’ve weeded the garden…) And there’s no way to avoid putting my bare sweaty knees down on all those pins, repeatedly, and dragging the perfectly straightened layers all out of alignment because they’re sticking to my legs.  I know, I must be doing it wrong. 


Then there’s the inevitable fruitless search for the masking tape—why can’t I put that away in the same place every time, so I can find it again?  I don’t know why, but I can’t.  It’s really only the masking tape that works that way around here, too, and since I know I’m going to need it again…well, who knows.  Anyhoo. 


Basted, and ready.  Whew.  Almost there!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thrifted Cross-Stitch Tablecloth


There is nothing better than a church basement rummage sale.  I found this tablecloth—that’s cross stitch on cotton, and it is immaculate—in a pile of old towels.  It cost 35 cents.  I know, right?  Here, look at the back:


Can you see that?  That’s the BACK!  This motif is just one corner detail, and there’s more like it all the way around the cloth, which is also expertly hemmed, by hand.  This thing is the work of a master needle crafter; I feel so lucky to have it.   Pass up the yard sales full of plastic baby furniture all you want, but if you see a sign for a church rummage sale, hit the brakes. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

19th Nervous Breakdown


My sports car sewing machine is on the fritz again.  It’s a way fancier and more finely crafted machine than I am worthy to own, and the first fifteen years or so of the benign neglect it suffered in my care means that it is now constantly breaking down.  I have a backup plan sewing machine (you don’t have two sewing machines?  Are you serious? ) but it’s a cheap little thing with none of the awesome features the Bernina has, and to which I have become accustomed, so the quilt moves slowly. (I try to love that Bernina, I really do, but she makes it so hard.)  This has nothing to do with that picture up there.  Those flags just cheer me up.


I hate it when I get to this point, all on a roll, and the sewing machine just goes eeeeeeeeeerrrrrr…pfft.  I’m all set up, with iced coffee and everything!  I don’t want to tinker with machinery innards!  



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Little Squares


I solemnly swear, I am up to no good.  There are 225 of those.  Yikes!


It’s a Nine-Patch-a-Palooza, with math. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cherry Jubilee


I just want to lie in the grass and eat about six pounds of these.  Oh, how I dream of sweet cherry season!  The best thing about them is that all you do is eat them, fresh, right now.  There’s no jam to make, or canning or freezing or pies.  There’s no imperative to store them, to put them by for winter.   There is only greedily stuffing your face, eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then eating some more, and going around all day with red teeth.  We always eat them in the car on the way home from the market, with the windows down, spitting the pits out the window, because they are so perfect and so delicious, and we just can’t wait until we get home.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summertime Cardigan


Another sweater has come off my needles.  It’s getting to be quite a sweatshop around here as I finish one thing after another at warp speed.  You can imagine the state of the house…


I had it done up to the yoke weeks ago, but there was something daunting about it, 350 stitches done in ribbing.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t really love knitting ribbing.  It’s something about all that back and forth, it just seems to slow everything down. 


I love choosing buttons.  Except I never really have eleven buttons that are all the same.  Well, compromise is okay, and these are close enough.  100_7862a

I believe I have enough white four-hole shirt buttons to last me an entire lifetime. 


This is that sweater I always need when the sky turns to twilight and the sand starts to cool, and my sunburned shoulders get a little chilly, but I want to stay around the bonfire just a little while longer, because someone just started playing my favorite song. 


The pattern is Leah’s Lovely Cardigan by Leah Mitchell, from the book More Last Minute Knitted Gifts, the yarn is KnitPicks Palette in Green Tea, knit on US size 2 and 3 needles.  I will be wearing this one a lot.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Saloon Girl Sampler


I can’t even believe it’s July already, where is the summer going?  These days are in such a hurry, I don’t even see them as they fly by.  I guess I do fill them with stitching of one kind or another and I should probably spend a minute or two here and there pulling some weeds in the garden.  I just can’t stay interested in the garden, I don’t know why.  I always think, all this work and dirt and sweat for a little lettuce?  A garden feels kind of obligatory when you live in the country, and I know I should want to garden…well, after twenty years of gardening, I might be kind of over it. 

Anyway, this little sampler is finally finished—those last five letters seemed like they were going to take forever, and of course the Z had to be extra-complicated.  Looking at it now gives me a new respect for those who design these things—I mean, how do you arrange twenty-six letters that aren’t all the same width in a pleasing way?  Since I was using just one color thread throughout, I went for simplicity and was hoping it would turn out somewhat square, but I should have thought to center the rows.  Well, it isn’t so bad.    Next time, I suppose I should drag out the graph paper and spend a few hours doodling the overall design, but that just isn’t my way.  Pick up the needle and get going, I say!

This somehow has kind of an Old West feeling about it.  It looks like something Miss Kitty would have made on her days off from being a saloon girl.  I like how the elaborate curly-ness of the lettering contrasts with the plain-ness of the monochromatic color scheme.  I used “Wildflowers” by Caron in “persimmon” on a mushroom evenweave ground, and the lettering design came from Alicia Paulson’s book “An Embroidery Companion.”  I still have to find a frame—it’s  too big for the one I thought would work.  Off to the thrift stores!