Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jessie's Jasmine Tea, Quilt revealed

I finished a second quilt recently. It was inspired by Jessie Aller's Jasmine Tea fabric line for In The Beginning 2012 from a bundle of 8 fat quarters she put together for a DC Modern Quilt Guild prize I won last February.

I added a snow white Kona (from Elle)  for the sashing and a very pale warm gray solid background. Plus there are a few scraps of darker gray fabrics to work with Jessie's white fabric prints that got lost beside my pale background fabric. I tried to make this a very light and feminine quilt, considering the source of my materials, it seemed the right thing to do as a tribute to the lady I admire very much for her talents and kind personality.

 I chose to use a traditional pattern known as the Churn Dash block. I still wonder what a churn dash is, does anyone know? My guess is that the top of the butter churn had a frame to support the round wood and add stability to the part where the plunger handle which goes in and out, up and down... which may give it the shape and name. That is just a guess.

The delight of the google age for me is entering an obscure question and finding out the answers! I just looked up butter churn dash and discovered images of the part called the "dasher" which is what makes the cream into butter. Most of them are simple crosses attached to the end of the plunger. I am not sure how that became the design for my quilt block but it is interesting to consider. Now that I am happy about that new butter churn dasher information. Let's look at the new quilt.
My embroidery label on the white with gray dots selvage edge exposed to show the label on fabric

close up detail of the Perle yarn in rose pink hand quilting

81 x 58 inches finished measurement 

gray on white printed back with a beet red and hot pink print as the final binding frame.  
quilting pattern of diamonds and smaller squares to break up the grid
This was a very fun quilt to build hope you like it. 

here you can see some of the different gray background fabrics

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Orange Explains it, quilt revealed

close detail of hand quilting with ecru pearle threads 

"Orange Explains It" queen size quilt finished 
 Since April 4th of this year I have been working, playing and enjoying the building of an abstract improvisational quilt top in orange with a few neutrals, mostly grays and browns. I was inspired by two things:
1. A visit in Washington DC with the Gee's Bend quilters of Alabama.
2. The scraps of orange and gray fabric that were given to me at a DC modern quilt guild meeting.
scraps of orange gray and brown first gift 

more orange from the scrap swap meet 

DCMQG members at the Gee's Bend event 

Gee's Bend quilt detail 

table view of Gee's Bend quilt 

close up of the quilting from Gee's Bend quilt 

Nice detail of Gee's Bend quilt 

Lady in purple suit with pearls and the younger one in Pink sweater set both from Gee's Bend who shared their quilting stories and songs with us. 

Elder Gees Bend quilter with the US Postage stamps commemorating her communities quilts 
my first try at using the orange gray and brown fabrics in an abstract improvisational block

At first I played with the fabrics on my design wall, not sure what I was going to do with them. Pretty quickly a block style began to emerge. It's all rectangles from strips of any fabric that was a little like orange. I chose many fabrics ranging from reds to yellows in the spectrum of orange.  It's interesting how colors that look a little orange alone when placed next to other oranges becomes a new hue, usually yellow or red. I used what I understood to be the Gee's Bend design formula of going with my natural inclinations to work up more and more new blocks until the whole was big enough for a queen sized bed.
blocks arranged on the design wall to try and find a way to assemble them into a solid quilt top
Soon after I added it all up with hand stitched quilting using a #8 pearle thread in ecru and bound the edges with a dark chocolate brown. It's bold and bright in the end a very unique piece.

orange quilt top takes up the whole living room spread out on the floor to baste

detail of hand quilting using pearle #8 ecru

adding a dark chocolate brown binding 
 Then I chose a pair of contrasting blue and white prints for the backing that I was saving because I loved the prints. I worked on a label at the summer meeting of DC Modern Quilt Guild in the Botanical Gardens on the national mall.
top with label turned up 

simple blue and white for the backing to cool off those hot oranges
This quilt was one of the must fun to make because I only had to follow my inner voice the whole way through from start to finish. No fussy cutting or pattern making was needed the biggest challenge was arranging all my blocks to fit together into one huge block. This artistic way of working is just one of many I plan to use in the future.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

preview pinks

I have been working for a while now on a special quilt made of fabrics designed by Jessie Aller and made into a packet of fat quarters with one of her lovely color schemes. It is a few shades of pink and gray with a touch of black and white thrown in. I have been having so much fun working with this color way that I wouldn't have chosen myself. I am nearly done making the whole quilt but I want to save it for a final reveal in the very near future. The colors of the quilt and the darker pink I am using for the binding brought to mind another pretty color experience we have been enjoying during the HEAT wave.
hand quilting on the Jasmine Tea quilt is contrasting in rosy pink

Meanwhile I noticed that some of the colors are so much like the most delicious summer treat my partner Keith made us a few days ago Ukrainian summer Borscht. We went to the farmers market last week and I saw a  big box of fresh beets and thought to ask the farmer girl how she made them to eat. She told me to just boil them in water and peel them to slice on salad or to grill them in tin foil and put a little olive oil on them when serving them hot. Both sounded good. We tried a boiled sliced beet on salad the next evening and I can't say I was very excited about how that tasted. The weather has been really hot and we had three more beets boiled and peeled and a pot of beet red liquid in ready to go in the refrigerator. It reminded me of the old days in NYC's East Village when I was poor and ate in bargain priced Ukrainian restaurants often. They served cold borscht soup with a big dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill on hot summer nights that was so good I could have eaten it over and over again.  After that vision of my earlier delight is when I suggested to Keith he look for a recipe for cold borscht soup and ever since we have been eating the best cold summer soup. pictured here in a small cup all dressed up like the Ukrainians served it at Veselka on second Ave. Leshkos and Odessa on Avenue A. and a other fine ethnic diners in Alphabet city some of them now long gone.

Even Keith who says he hates beets was very excited to eat this cold summer soup. In doing research for this article I found a transcribed Allen Ginsberg recipe for a vegetarian cold summer borscht. He lived in Alphabet city back in the 1980's just like me and maybe next time I will try his version with a salad thrown in! So many ways to enjoy those purple red beets besides pickled. How do you like them cooked, I am curious what you do with your beets if you eat them. Leave me a comment to tell me about your favorite beet recipe or story.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mid July with Mom

The middle of July is when my mother was born. 81 years ago this year and we packed up and went out to spend a couple days with her. Keith walked the garden and selected a few pretty flowers to take for a table arrangement, I packed up my little gift of hand made lavender sachets plus a new purple cone flower and we took off to buy a nice birthday cake at Whole Foods and make the drive out to Manassas.
yellow day lily is a new cut flower for our mid-summer bouquets 

We discovered from Pure Mädderlake that day lilies keep on blooming after cut one day at a time.

Keith the florist on Monday July 15th wrote his journal beside his center piece for mom's birthday

This time of year is usually so hot you can barely breath but this is just beginning to be the start of heat in DC above 90º. We have had great levels of rainfall and no one has had to water anything until now. When we arrived it was a delight to see Mom's garden looks great and is in big bloom and to know she hasn't had to put much effort into maintaining it thus far. We visited a while and made a nice lunch while we caught up on all the news. We took a trip to Lowe's and Home Depot to find some new plants for the garden a kind of tradition for our birthday gift to mom.

Then later we decided to risk a dinner on the lake outdoors in the "heat" on the deck at Logan's Road House. As it turned out this was the perfect night to go. It cooled down and there was a nice breeze and clear blue skies over the deck as we enjoyed the birds swooping over and under the deck. Canada geese, Mallard ducks, and Barn swallows are all around the deck and on the lake. Over in the shrubs by the lakes edge we heard song sparrows singing as we arrived. When we got home we dove into a nice slice of lemon curd topped vanilla cake with a butter cream icing.  Made the mistake of eating it before the butter cream got to room temperature but it still was a nice finish to the meal.

Then Monday the sun came up and the heat started to climb. We enjoyed breakfast but were concerned the AC wasn't keeping up with the heat out side. It was four degrees above the setting on the thermostat so Mom called in the service man from Sears to have a look. While we were eating a delicious Pannera lunch he arrived and quickly found that there was a leak in the coolant lines which would require a repair man, not him a lowly service maintenance guy. To get a repair man would take four days wait since it was so late in the day and at the beginning of a heat wave. We decided to go looking for a solution to the muggy in the house while we had to wait out the next few days. We turned off the AC to let the frozen lines defrost and see how long it took. The system wasn't totally out it still functioned part way. At 81 Keith and I were very concerned about mom waiting for this repair in a hot house. Mom found a little table top oscillating fan that was used at a great price and we brought it home and with that in addition to the struggling central AC unit it was quite pleasant to sit in the living room even with the high heat outdoors. The phone line was also not working right. It came and went, in and out, one minute it was fine and worked then next it was dead and no calls or messages got through. That requires a cable company repair to come and all these repairs require brother David to handle his dogs so that these people can come to the house without fear of injury or the dogs escaping to the streets. The levels of stress that all this mishap added to our "happy birthday" celebration was one to be remembered. In the end I planted the new plants in the ground, watered and mulched, we ate delicious cake and enjoyed beautiful flowers. Jenny and Frank sent a wonderful bouquet of flowers from a new to us Haymarket florist that were a delight to see. We also have Casa Blanca lilies blooming in the yard and at home. I always associate them with Mom's birthday since they usually bloom on or near the 15th of July.
Jenny and Frank's arrangement with a bunch of casa blanca lily and soft pink roses & white daisies.
We got to enjoy the really unusually green scenery and trees at home and all along the route. I made a video of the deck where I sat mornings to write in my journal under the big American Beech tree that we dug up in the forest as a sapling back in the early 1960's with Dad who died five years ago on the day after mom's birthday. It is a great reminder of him and how much he loved flowers and gardens and trees. When we moved into the Manassas house back in 1964 there were only foundation plantings and one little maple tree in the yard. He soon turned it into a forest and ever since I have been a tree hugger because I know what it is like to live in the heat of a pasture with no shade! I used to marvel at the number of plants and trees my mom's dad knew the name of when we went on long drives. He would point them out and ask if I knew them. I do now and it's fun to think of that as a tradition brought to the city by me from my ancestors who come from the  woodlands of Appalachia.

American beech tree planted to shade the back of the house with dad in the 1960's

glider and potted hostas on the deck in Manassas 
Here is a short video sample of the view and songs of birds and cicada July 16th on the deck in Manassas:

We had a lot of unplanned repairs to see scheduled on this trip but soon as those are done it will be good to know that mom will be snug as a bug in a rug with her AC and phone line working and her flower garden blooming pretty pink and white flowers. Then on the next trip we will celebrate like Alice's friend, the Mad Hatter, all 351 Unbirthdays to come!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Quilting with a new tool

Jessie Aller's Jasmine Tea fabric fat quarter packet is the newest quilt on my new tool 
Last Spring at the Prince William County Fair grounds when we went to the annual quilt show, I was lucky enough to win a silent auction item. It is a stand that has a big 18 inch hoop for hand quilting. I had not been using it, until yesterday when I got fed up with aching shoulders from the strains of a big hoop on my lap. I pulled out that little box and spent about ten minutes assembling the small hoop on a stand. I tried it out last night on a hand quilted project I hope to have done in the next couple weeks. It worked much better than I thought it would. There is a center pivot point that allows me to turn the project in the hoop 365º so I can always have the surface right over my lap at an angle and shift it as I change stitch directions. No more strain on my neck and shoulders trying to hold the loose hoop in the right angles. Now if I could just find a way to make it taller so I could do some work standing...

 I am curious if other quilters have tried using this sort of tool?  My first experience was with an oval hoop on a fixed stand that didn't turn like this one at Valerie Hohing's house, my high school pal where we worked on a big comforter she was making senior year at Stonewall Jackson. We took turns quilting while listening to music of the era and planning trips to blue grass festivals and fiddler's conventions. I cherish that memory of Valerie's big peacock rattan chair that was the seat for the oval hoop quilting frame and the times we spent together there.

 #5 pearle floss in old rose pink with some of the fabric for my new quilt project.