Expanding Energy Everywhere!

“The color palette [of polyester double knit fabric in the late 1960s and early 1970s] was eye-popping, gaudy, sometimes bizarre, and unfailingly cheerful,” notes blogger Suzanne Labry. I’m guessing this was the motivation of the quilter who set these vintage Bear’s Paw blocks together with pink and orange double knit fabrics. “Eye-popping, gaudy and cheerful” all describe the color palette of this creation! My guess is that this top was sewn together in the early 1970’s, the same time I was wearing a polyester TWA flight attendant uniform in a plum color polyester. The easy care, long lasting characteristics of polyester made it seem ideal.

I discovered this scramble of a quilt top at a local thrift for twelve dollars. I almost left it behind. As I opened it and considered the possibilities, I was charmed by the energy emanating from those cattywampus blocks! Some of the Bear’s Paws were askew. The jumble of colors and patterns kept me searching for a rythymn. The workpersonship was poor–one of the setting strips even displayed the raw edges of a seam placed on the front! Who would choose a stretchy polyester double knit fabric as setting strips??

Yet, I wanted it! I wanted to take it home and explore the possibilities! The celebrated quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have helped educate my eye and my mind to an avenue of the quilting world I’d been unaware of until the late 1990s. Even if you are familiar with the Gee’s Bend Quilts, please explore this visual journey through many of their quilts: http://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers Wow, what an amazing collection of vibrant quilts!

I’ve not been quilting on large projects recently. This quilt top is 64″ x 88″. To do the pin basting step, which prepares the top for my machine quilting, requires the use of three large tables at the local community center room. The ironing of top and back, then layering of all three layers took five hours of steady work.

For the last week, when time allowed, I have been doing the “free motion” quilting I call my “scribble motif” of swirls and curves and a few flowers all over the top. As I’m scribbling with my fast-moving machine needle, I encounter the duller blocks and then the vivid setting strips. I am amazed by the variety of fabrics gathered into this one top. I am also aware of the turquoise or blue centers of each Bear’s Paw block. She used different fabrics at times, but the repetition of this appealing color is part of what draws me to this unusual quilt.

I’m expecting to finish the machine quilting today or tomorrow. Then another adventure begins as I apply the binding. This quilt has extremely wavy edges, so I’ve cut the binding on the bias and will keep those wavy edges as I bind it.

Because the original quiltmaker seemed to use any fabric she happened to have on hand, I’ve done the same. The expanse of fabric needed for the back was pieced from cloth I had on hand. I’ve cut the dark bias binding from a vintage Ginny Beyer striped border fabric. That long strip of folded bias is carefully folded to prevent any stretching, and is now ready for that almost final step.

By next week I hope to have completed photos and a comprehensive list of all of the types of fabric I’ve encountered in this bold quilt top–from plaids, stripes and ticking, to gingham and organdy. Stay tuned.

Note: The opening quote came from an article “The Return of Double Knits” from this blog, https://www.quilts.com/sfancy/suzy-s-fancy-the-return-of-double-knits!.html

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Composition, or Setting the Stage….

“Life for a quilt comes through the play of one element against another. Color, shape, value and texture all play a part in the visual impact.” My observations about vibrant quilts can be applied to apply to this photo from Crete, Greece.

Initially you take in the graceful curves of the door, the arch of the brick frame and the overhanging foliage. Your eye is drawn to the lightest part of the photo as if your next step was to enter. “The viewer’s eye will automatically go to the area of your quilt with the greatest contrast”, noted Irene Barry in QNM Dec/Jan 2009. I’ve found this observation extremely useful in designing my quilts.
The rich green color of the door, the lights and shadows of the composition as well as the variety of textures keeps me engaged in viewing this moment in time.

My photo of an arched door in the village of Mochlos, Crete is full of surprises–my own image was reflected in the glass! Roberta Horton in her book, The Fabric Makes the Quilt, offered five valuable ideas for designing your own quilts. One of my favorites of her suggestions is, “Repetition makes things go together.”
Note the strong curved lines of the arch over the door and the graceful palm fronds framing that door. Because your eye has been drawn to those dominant curves you will not immediately notice the square shape of the door itself. The subtle earth tone colors of the building and the entrance bring a calm to the scene. No jarring colors appear to demand attention, until you notice the lavender linen shirt reflected in the photo. Because the proportion of bright color is small, your eye is not overwhelmed but perhaps intrigued.

In both photos the repetition demands your attention.

The play of light and dark is quite different in each photo, setting the stage for your reaction. Whether sun-drenched or shade covered, the viewer will react to the mood portrayed by the light. Or as one wise quilter quipped, “Color gets the credit, but value does the work”. She meant that the contrast between light, medium and dark fabrics will make your composition interesting to the viewer’s eye. I keep practicing all this advice from my contemporary quilters. And it is still fun!

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Everyday Creativity: Available to All of Us!

Loading my car on a sunny afternoon after a recent quilting gathering, I noticed these bright yellow fan-shaped leaves scattered on the ground. Ginkgo leaves! Old friends! I first met this unique tree and its bright leaves when I was a young college student in 1963 at Maryville College, Maryville TN. We all know that familiar smells can retrieve strong memories. What memories are stirred by a few fallen leaves? First, you must know that in 1963 I had not experienced fall and the fallen leaves the cold weather brings! I was born and raised in Miami, Florida where hibiscus, bougainvillea, and poinsettias were the bright year-round companions I knew well.

I first met this unusual tree and its golden leaves when I was a young college student in 1963 at Maryville College, Maryville TN. We learned in biology class that this unique tree is considered a “living fossil”–meaning that fossils recognizably related to the modern ginkgo trees have been found that date back 270 million years.

With leaves on the ground, I thought, there must be a source nearby. I looked up and saw two tall, elegant trees dressed in the same yellow-gold of the leaves on the ground. I admired their splendor, then grabbed my camera.
Savoring the intense yellow of the leaves and in awe of the abundance of those leaves still clinging to their tree, I stopped what I was doing. Paying attention, being in the moment, is a central part of creativity! I admired my surroundings and my good fortune to be alive, and to really see these two particular ginkgo trees. I decided to take a closeup of the leaves before leaving. As I returned to the car, I carefully chose two particular ginkgo leaves from the ground to accompany me home.

More memories followed me that day. As a young woman I had not had much encouragement to explore my own creativity–that would come later. Yet I’ve always had a camera to record events and observations. The four years I spent on that campus allowed me to learn more about the world and to learn about who I was. I do know I was picking up leaves then and taking them with me to admire later.

In 1963 Maryville College was a small, co-ed, liberal arts college of 850 students located in east Tennessee along the foothills of the Smokey Mountains which look much like our Ozark Mountains. I had graduated from Hialeah High School in a class of over 1,000 students. Baldwin Hall, the dorm I lived in the first two years, had been used as a hospital during the civil war–or so we are told. I found the campus lovely. I admired a spreading white dogwood tree outside my dorm window that had a strong branch of pink dogwood blossoms as a result of a careful graft by biology students done years earlier.
Baldwin Hall (upper right corner in the group of campus photos) was razed decades ago. Yet my memories are clear of the relationships, experiences, friendships and even some conflicts with the other young women who lived together. Campus life gave me a “breathing spell” before entering the work world of adults. I’m glad I had those years to start to mature.
Creativity is full of surprises and unexpected paths. Can you locate the ginkgo leaves in this section from a recent quilt of mine? This quilt began a series of quilts which is still unfolding.

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Cedar Trees & the “Lust for Life”

When I first bought this piece of land in Arkansas and dreamed of living in the woods, I named the land Cedar Hill in honor of an ancient cedar tree located near the well and chimney of the 1880s homestead. I imagined that this cedar tree had sheltered the people who built the cabin and dug that well. One of my friends informed me that her father always called cedar trees “trash trees”. That was over thirty years ago. I still remember her dismissive comment. Perhaps I had become tiresome in talking about my desire to move to Cedar Hill.

Even before we built our small deck from the local cedar, we had used standing dead cedar trees as posts inside the house. When we built our 20′ x 40′ house, we left a small volunteer cedar tree in the back yard. That vibrant tree has grown to shade the entire yard. Our outside shower hangs from her branches. Juncos, robins, bluejays and others nest in the branches–we watch them from the kitchen window. Sometimes in midwinter, I bring the evergreen boughs loaded with the plump blue clusters of berries inside to place on the mantel. This tree is our constant companion!

Lust for Life! Cedars grow from the Rocky Mountains across the continent to the ocean. Here in the Ozarks this juniper/cedar thrives! We can see cedar trees popping up along fences as well as large stands of closely spaced specimens. The twigs and foliage are eaten extensively by deer and cattle, but the chief attraction to wildlife is the bluish-black berry-like fruit. The trees offer shelter and safe nesting spots for birds and squirrels.

Juniperus virginiana is the formal Latin name for our cedar. I turned to the USDA website for a little more information(https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_juvi.pdf) “All of the native junipers are valuable ornamental species, and many horticultural varieties have been developed. Red cedar is widely used in shelterbelts and wildlife plantings. The close-grained, aromatic, and durable wood of junipers is used for furniture, interior paneling, novelties, and fence posts. The fruits and young branches contain aromatic oil that is used in medicines.”

When we built the deck, we had to remove the native Virginia Creeper vine which had climbed the wall over the front door. We did cut apart the upper branches, but carefully preserved the lower section while we worked on the deck. Once the deck was completed, we snaked the stalk of the vine out between the house and the long ramp. The vine appears next to the small ramp leading to the cat/dog door.
New Growth!
In the fall, after a long hot summer, we don’t often look for fresh new growth around us. I was delighted, last week, when I noticed the first hint of a green leaf unfolding on the Virginia Creeper vine we rescued. Today there are thirteen leaves emerging from the lower section of the vine. The base of the plant is tucked under the edge of the deck, but still gets water when it rains. We’ve been providing supplemental water, too, to encourage this new growth. As you can see in the picture to the left, this vigorous vine had traced its own path up the wall. I planted this Virginia Creeper vine well over a decade ago. Now we will see what new path the vines will create along the wall. The dark berries from Virginia Creeper are a favored food for a variety of birds. I find myself thinking that “trash” trees and even “weeds” are designations that tell me more about the speaker than about a plant or tree!
Certainly, I admire the “lust for life” I observe all around me! Even when the “weeds” overwhelm my sense of order, I see the life energy and the creative impulse of those plants. I find I need to absorb some of that energy to enrich my own life, so I keep admiring each example I see of a “lust for life”. Do you have any examples you’d like to share?

Graceful new growth for this Virginia Creeper vine!

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Cedar Deck for Cedar Hill, Built by Women!

“Measure twice, cut once.
Use the right tool for the right job.
Keep the work site tidy to prevent accidents.
Enjoy the process–admire each step of the work.”

These “rules” I learned in 1987-88 as Jeanne and I worked under the instruction of a woman carpenter, Nancy V., to build the small house we designed by reading library books about “owner-built” houses. My dream when we moved to our forty acres of hardwood forest was to be able to garden all summer and quilt all winter. But we needed shelter first! We planned our solar-powered, non-toxic house to be our permanent dwelling. Wood, glass, stone and metal combined with our own “sweat equity” created our 800 square foot home. We called our homestead Cedar Hill in honor of the magnificent cedar tree located beyond the 1880 house foundation behind our house.

It was 1994 before I had the time to pursue my dream of quilting. To my surprise all the carpentry lessons that our mentor, Nancy, had given us directly applied to constructing my first quilt which had lots of diagonal cuts! This year, 2019, marks my 25th year as a quilter and quilt educator, and I am still occasionally involved in a building project involving lumber.

Because I was having difficulty holding open the heavy storm door while on our front steps, Jeanne and I decided to replace the steps with a small deck. That way we would be on a level surface when operating the awkward door. After considering the options, we decided on a deck 10 feet long and 8 feet extending into the yard. Again we called on our carpenter friend, Nancy, who turned our vision into a reality. Nancy took our overall plan and made it a reality with her decades of experience, her tools and her enthusiasm! She became our “crew chief”.

With the high cost of milled and kiln-dried lumber, Nancy suggested using local red cedar (really a juniper). She knew of a local saw mill in our county (Madison) that could provide us with all we need in a matter of days. We liked the idea of locally sourced wood. Both of us enjoy the beautiful rich color of the wood and the strong aroma when it is freshly cut.

Days 1 & 2: Nancy, Jeanne and another strong, younger woman removed the stairs and the wood box from the wall (far left in the photo), placed the posts, and framed the deck.

Day 3: Nancy cuts the boards to length. Jeanne begins screwing down the cedar decking. On the right is the compartment housing all our solar components.

Moving between the deck joists as Jeanne adds boards is tricky business.

Our talented carpenter friend, Nancy, brought her powerful portable saws–each ran off our solar electrical system. Here you can see some of the beautiful colors of the cedar boards.

Day #4 Paula did the boards on the outer edge.

Day: 4 After finishing the decking and railing, we started on installing the stairs which Nancy had put together in her shop.

End of Day #4: The basic bones of the deck are complete here. We installed a temporary ramp for the dogs to use. Chase, our 16 year old rat terrier, adapted readily to this option. The lumber pile to the left holds the remaining cedar boards for the ramp. (see photo below) Due to Nancy’s schedule we would wait a week to build the four feet wide ramp.

This delay allowed me to focus on my current quilt project “Mix It Up: Daffodils and Ginkgo Leaves”. I fell in love with this pattern and the theme fabrics after finding the book Circle Play: Simple Designs for Fabulous Fabrics in the guild store at our April quilt show. I’ll do another blog focused on that quilt (and it’s sisters). Here is the quilt top before I basted it in preparation for quilting it this week.

Finishing the ramp one week later

Jeanne and I find we are choosing to use the wide ramp most often–it is user friendly in a way stairs will never be. Note the dog & cat ramp to their private entrance. We are now wondering why we had not built this deck years ago! We’ve just added 80 square feet of living space to our 800 square foot house! Jeanne takes her yoga mat out most evenings at dusk in this luxurious space.

Here is Zora, our 13 year old rat terrier, standing in front of their tiny private ramp into the house. Each of the animal companions have taken to lounging on the deck as you will see in the photos below.

Catfish, our only youngster, lounges in the sunshine.

Scout, who is also 16, has become a “talker” in his old age. It was not difficult to photograph him as he called for attention.

Shyla, our rescue dog, is quite mellow and likes the other critters. All of us are pleased with our efforts to enjoy our stay here at Cedar Hill.

POSTSCRIPT: I’ve hung an antique leaded glass window above the electronic/solar box adjacent to the deck. Finally I’ve found the perfect spot for this beautiful window I found years ago while living in Kansas City.

We found this highway sign at a flea market decades ago–a reminder of our six months of living on the Kansas side of the Missouri/Kansas border in a tiny owner built house to get a feel for country living.

Located behind the deck chairs, this planter, at the base of the 4’x 9’recycled windows, survived all the rigors of building the deck! I planted dusty miller plants here years ago and they survive the winters because of the heat from the southern sun and the heat escaping through the windows. At the top of the photo is a foxglove plant that surprised me by sprouting here. The large leafed plant is another volunteer–mullein that can grow to be 9 feet tall. None are natives.

This new sign temporarily covers the electrical outlet while we are searching for a new light fixture with a pull cord–not easy to find. We enjoy sitting in the shade, yet find it a luxury, but easier now with this expansive deck and two comfortable chairs.

*Note about Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) This cedar/juniper is a very common native plant in Eastern North America. Note the Latin name–it is not a true cedar but a juniper. These trees have an aromatic wood with red coloring similar to cedars. The non-toxic aromatic berries of Eastern Red Cedar are an important food for a variety of wildlife including wild turkeys who often nest in their branches.

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Picnic in Nonotuk Park,

“Tiny rituals hold together the seams of human life”, by Maggie O’Farrell in The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

When I visited the east coast recently I was able to visit with three different sets of friends. While staying with women in Easthampton, a woman friend who lives over an hour away drove down to meet me. She had a time frame of visiting with me from 10-2:00. Instead of eating lunch at a crowded, impersonal restaurant, I volunteered to bring lunch for us. When I asked if she had any food restrictions she said she didn’t.

I had made a large batch of our Savory Muffins before I arrived in Easthampton to help sustain me during my visit there. These muffins are so nutritious, but low in carbohydrates, that Jeanne and I have been cooking them as a main dish. For this picnic, I put together a salad of dark leafy greens, carrots, red cabbage and a few tomatoes as a side dish to go with our savory muffins.

It was a cool early spring day in Massachusetts–about a month behind our Arkansas spring weather. Earlier in the week, I’d gone to a thrift store to find a light weight coat because I had not packed for cool weather. I needed that extra layer as we explored the park.

Nonotuck Park was just a few blocks from where I was staying. We wandered around relieved to be out of doors and with each other. We had a lot of catching up to do on the events in each of our lives. I carried my camera to photograph anything that caught my eye. The light filtering through the trees continued to capture my attention.

It was cool enough that when it was time to eat lunch we decided to return to the sun-warmed car and to eat together there. We continued our conversation in the warmth of the car–laughing and sympathizing about various challenges in our lives. We talked about mutual friends and shared updates about each. I was also warmed by her nurturing attitude and steady disposition. Later she asked for the savory muffin recipe which I will share at the end of this blog.

After lunch we strolled another section of the park moving across the silent pine needles. This simple bench gave us a chance to be together and enjoy our surroundings–bird voices and little traffic noise.

We were both startled when my friend pointed to a recently chewed-on-by-beaver tree directly in front of us. This was one busy beaver anxious to fell this tree for a new damn. We looked for evidence of the damn, but did not see one in the nearby area.

This beaver-destroyed tree reminded her of a city beaver damn near her home north of here. Late one evening she was returning home and was astonished to see traffic stopped in both directions as a beaver carefully crossed the highway. Her curiosity took her back in daylight and she later sent me these photos of the beaver damn beginning against the concrete support.

She wrote me that the beaver “have built 5 lodges under the interstate. The trouble in Massachusetts is it is illegal to relocate wildlife. So they either have to be trapped and killed or left alone. The idiocy of man made laws…”

Further, she called the Audubon Society and they referred her to the public works department who felt that although the beaver was seen crossing the road if they’ve lived there this long they are probably alright. They were going to “check on them” and get back to her…so she’s just waiting. She concluded, “How amazing the persistence of life.”

My artist friend took this flattering photo of me that early spring day by the lake in Nonotuk Park

That day in the park we were dining on savory muffins and savoring each other’s company while the beaver colony was resting up for their night’s adventure. Tiny rituals do hold together all of life on this amazing mother planet!

Savory Muffin recipe:

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp gluten powder (needed to hold together)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup raw almond four (or blanched almond flour which has more carbs, but okay to use)
1 cup coconut flour (or paleo baking flour for a lighter muffin)
4 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
2-3 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped (or kale)
3-4 tbsp sun dried tomatoes, soak briefly in hot water, then finely chopped. Save this liquid in case you need more moisture in the batter.
1/2 cut finely crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners; set aside. Assemble all ingredients for easy access!
Step 2
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, gluten, salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano; set aside. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and melted butter until blended; stir into dry ingredients just until combined (do not overmix). Fold in spinach, tomato, feta and Parmesan cheese until combined.
Step 3
Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake until tester (toothpick) comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes; let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out muffins. Let the muffins cool completely and store in airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 6 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

To do your own modifications to the original recipe, check here: https://www.eggs.ca/recipes/savoury-muffins-with-spinach-tomato-and-feta-cheese

POSTSCRIPT: This 1917 photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston relates to Lila’s comment below.

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Wool: The Great Thermal Insulator

My lovely lilac heather wool blanket made from sheep raised on the east coast and spun into wool for this blanket. Made in Harmony Maine.

Many other color options.

For me, thrift store shopping is full of thrills! Whenever I travel, I always seek out thrift store spots. I’m able to mingle with the locals, and I may discover a unique treasure. Martha and I stopped at a thrift shop near her New Jersey home as we drove to the shore last week. Yes, I did find a treasure!

I was drawn to a wool blanket, found in its original wrapping. It was a beautiful lilac heather color and tightly woven. As a lifelong fine textile enthusiast, I wanted this blanket. The quality workpersonship was evident. At ten dollars, it was a bargain for this twin size blanket. But how would I get it home? Reluctantly, I put it down and wandered around, choosing a few other items I was drawn to. I paid and went to the car. I told Martha about my find. She encouraged me to consider mailing it home–that is how that beautiful heather blanket arrived in Arkansas.

By examining the label, I discovered that my treasure was made by Bartlett Yarns, a woolen mill operating in Harmony, Maine since 1821. All the wool is sourced in the USA too! Visit here: https://bartlettyarns.com/product/blankets/
As I explored the Bartlett Yarns website, I discovered wool dryer balls. If clothes are not dried outside, these little wool balls absorb moisture from clothing in the dryer, maintaining a more humid environment, thus helping get rid of static cling. In addition to reducing static, they also reduce drying time and fluff clothes. What a great idea. Please note the luscious colors too.

Why do I sleep under wool blankets and seek out wool clothing?

Wool’s inherent breathability and moisture-wicking properties help regulate my body temperature, keeping me cool in the summer and warm in the winter. My last TWA flight attendant uniforms were made of a year-round weight wool and proved this assertion to me during the four years we wore those uniforms.
Wool naturally has a stretch to it. Even after a full day of wear, wool fabric easily snaps back into shape, despite continuous wear and cleaning.

Natural, non-synthetic and renewable:
Wool is all natural animal fiber, surpassing synthetic fabrics in quality and durability. The sheep grow a new coat of wool every year and are not harmed during shearing. With proper care, my wool bedding can last for decades and still look great!
Additionally, wool is often produced by those living on small farms or ranches, not large corporate places.

Anti-Microbial and Anti-Bacterial:
Wool resists bacteria and is both antimicrobial and antibacterial.

Naturally Fire Resistant:
Wool is inherently fire resistant, providing a safe sleep environment without the need for chemical additives.

Women and Wool: An Ancient Connection

My awareness of the centuries of connection between women and their creation of wool textiles from sheep and goats was heightened by the time I spent on Crete. We saw clear evidence in all the sacred sites of weaving tools like loom weights to indicate that women were spinning thread and creating cloth–most likely from sheep and goats brought to the island millennia before Minoan Crete. Many scholars believe wool was the mainstay cloth created on Minoan Crete.

The ancients wore wool for all the same reasons we do today. Especially, I believe, because of its durability and breathability. If you are spinning and weaving everything you own, you want it to be comfortable and to last a long time. For fun, I found these two photos. The first is a closeup of the shaggy sheep found on Crete today. The other shows a young sheperdess, in 1955 on Crete. She is both minding her flock and, if you look carefully, you can see the drop spindle she is using with both hands to spin yarn from the fluffy bundle of wool tucked under her left arm.

The last photo shows the spinning process and looms used by Bartlett yarns as seen on their website. My foray into that New Jersey thrift shop sent me on a journey of discovery that I could not pre-plan. By following my own enthusiasms, I’ve experienced a renewal of my interest in natural fibers and the means people use to transform them into attractive textiles.

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Exploring the Jersey Shore

Approaching the waves… Landlocked Arkansas is full of delightful creeks and lakes, but ocean waves hold a particular sense of exuberance.

On Saturday, Martha and I drove to Allenhurst, NJ (less than an hour from her home) because I wanted to visit the shore sometime during my stay with her. It was a cloudy, gray day, and the shore was almost deserted. A few surfers in wet suits were rolling in on the waves. I was pleased–walking was easy. The light was soft. Or, as I had learned when I got my first SLR camera as a teenager in 1960, the light was best described as “cloudy bright”. This diffused light is excellent for photography.

I walked along the wet sand and sang my song about “returning to the ocean” to this wedge of Atlantic ocean. I studied the dark boulders. I watched the arrival of wave after wave. I went to the higher ground where the waves had left artifacts behind. I was seeking treasures: shell, drift wood and especially beach glass.

I did pick up some interesting shells, and some fine pieces of driftwood. I saw a lot of plastic garbage. I kept noticing smooth pale green rocks about the size of an orange. Several had holes, making them “holy rocks”. I pocketed all these. I piled the wood in my left hand and continued to roam. Then I discovered one of those green rocks with two holes-wow! I tried to photograph this for you to see, but it hasn’t worked to my satisfaction.

One of the young, male surfers saw me collecting and asked if I’d found anything interesting. I replied I was from Arkansas and it was all interesting. He said he collects for his mother and the late summer is really the best time.

This jetty marks the private beach for the Allenhurst Beach Club. By later this month, I would need a $7 beach pass to roam this sand! One of the local people told us we would be fine today to explore. Martha visited with several people who were walking their dogs on this glorious cloudy late afternoon.

It was chilly enough for me to have the hood up on my sweatshirt. We both were enjoying the fresh sea breeze, the empty beach, and the sound of the waves meeting the shore.

This wide boardwalk looks out over the beach. To the left in the photo, is a long ramp allowing easy access to the sandy beachfront.

An earlier beachcomber built this round structure in the sand. It reminds me of the many ancient Minoan buildings on Crete that were topped with the upright curves of the “Horns of Consecration” one of the symbols of birth, death and regeneration.

While crisscrossing the beach, I came across a dead sea bird with beautiful webbed feet. I could see no injury. I looked carefully, admiring the lovely body, sleek head and striking color combinations. I said a brief invocation honoring it in life and in death.

When we got home, Martha and I discovered that the bird we had seen was a Northern Gannet. And, it happens that Martha had marveled at one of these birds who dived into the ocean for a fish as she watched that afternoon! She, too, was struck by the unusual coloring–that helped us be sure of our identification.

Here is what we learned: the northern gannet (Morus bassanus) is a seabird, the largest species of the gannet family, Sulidae. It is native to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, breeding in Western Europe and North America. The sexes are similar in appearance. The adult northern gannet has a mainly white streamlined body with a long neck, long and slender wings. It is 34–39 inches long with a 67–71 inch wingspan. The head and nape have a buff tinge that is more prominent in breeding season, and the wings are edged with dark brown-black feathers. The long pointed bill is blue-grey, contrasting with black bare skin around the mouth and eyes. (Remaining photos are from from Wikipedia.)

They dive with their bodies straight and rigid, wings tucked close to the body but angled back, extending beyond the tail, before piercing the water like an arrow. They control the direction of the dive using their wings and tail, and fold their wings against the body just before impact. Birds can hit the water at speeds of up to 62 mph.This allows them to penetrate up to 36 ft below the surface, and they will swim down to an average 60 ft, sometimes deeper than 80 ft. The bird’s subcutaneous air sacs may have a role in controlling their buoyancy.

Gannets usually push their prey deeper into the water and capture it as they return to the surface. When a dive is successful, they swallow the fish underwater before surfacing, and never fly with the fish in their bill. Larger fish are swallowed headfirst, smaller fish are swallowed sideways or tail-first. The fish is stored in a branched bag in the throat and does not cause drag when in flight. Their white color helps other gannets to identify one of their kind and they can deduce the presence of a shoal of fish by this diving behavior; this in turn facilitates group foraging, which makes capturing their prey easier. The color also makes the gannet less visible to the fish underneath. Northern gannets also forage for fish while swimming with their head under water.

Nesting colonies are on northern sea cliffs; one at Bonaventure Island, Quebec, (see both photos below) has become a famous tourist destination. In winter off southern coastlines, the gleaming white adults may be outnumbered by brown and patchy immatures; it takes four years for gannets to attain full adult plumage.

The entire adventure reminded me of the poem from the famous lyric poet Sappho whose book I have with me on this trip:
“If you are squeamish
don’t prod the beach rubble.”
Every adventure is full of surprises or it would not be an adventure!
This post is dedicated to both Jeanne and to Susan W because I know they would have loved to be here too!

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Exuberant and Untidy!

Look carefully at this exuberant and out-of-control quilt top–it is a big quilt top measuring 64″ x 84″!

After sitting through a long-winded description and proscription on how to best please quilt judges, I was ready for another version of reality. Those of us who don’t see quilting as a “competitive sport” need to be heard too. For me, what is valuable is the sharing of our quilts and our enthusiasms that create community and the strong bonds quilters share with each other. I do not believe that we need the suggestions from a quilt judge to know where we need to improve our skills. In fact, I am proud of quilters like our talented friend, LoVina, who resisted all efforts to change her improvisational style which would never be approved by any certified quilt judge.

Quote by Mark Twain: “Comparison is the death of joy.”

I tend to agree with Twain–competition and comparisons breed resentment and ill-will. Comparisons are never useful. As the quilt judge explained over and over, each quilt is compared to the others in its category, and then ranked. Why? Who does this serve? Do you really want that polyester ribbon? I know we can admire the skills, efforts, talents and imagination of every quilter without raising up or belittling anyone. Our creative selves express infinite variety.

“Please yourself and at least one will be well satisfied.”

As the Irish saying I once heard mentioned on NPR goes, “Please yourself and at least one will be well satisfied”. Just forget what a quilt judge would say–that is my advice. I like quilts with personality! Let me see your personality in every quilt you stitch! Here is a quilt loaded with personality! I’m tentatively calling it “Gees Paw” because it reminds me of the Gees Bend creations and because of the 15″ bears paw block. It is a big top! I’m still trying to figure out the decade of the newest fabric to help me date this top. Do not see any batiks, so that helps.

My friend (A.A.) wrote, “You probably noticed the two blocks in one of the paws turned the wrong way. Adds charm …. but it would probably bug me until I took it apart and rotated them.” I had noticed, but I replied “that the block ‘switcheroo’ does not bother me as much as the multiple clashing sashing. But I’ve decided to leave it all alone. It has its own charm as it is…..”

Exuberant energy with excessive personality!

Carefree placement! She included plaids, stripes, seersucker, ombres, dots, solids, small, medium and large scale prints and three different clashing sashing fabrics–what nerve she possessed.

Perhaps I was drawn to this top, in part, because the quilt maker had consistently used several turquoise fabrics at the center of each of the 15″ blocks. For the past two years I’ve noticed how most of my quilts have some turquoise in them. Once I quilt Gees Paw, I will have to think carefully about what to use for binding–that will be a fun challenge! Do I want to go subtle or bold? What would you do? Any suggestions?

I hope you will come both days, April 5 & 6 to our big quilt show in Springdale sponsored by QUILT of Northwest Arkansas https://quiltguildnwa.edublogs.org/ Please join us that weekend (Friday & Saturday). With over three hundred quilts in the show and a special exhibit of hand quilted quilts, you can spend the day with us and enjoy a lunch from Spring Street Grill.

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Scrap Happy

“In it’s simplest form, a quilt is just some fabric and a little bit of thread. It’s up to you to decide how to put it together.” YLI ad in QNM, March 2000

Every quilter has scraps. We all have to decide what we are going to do with our leftovers. And this can be a challenge. Our favorite fabrics may hold dear associations and memories. It’s hardest to decide what we might do with those particular scraps. I created this design to feature fabric scraps I especially favored, and to deal with the limited use of my right arm and hand following my cancer diagnosis in early 2017. Playing with favorite fabrics always soothes me. I started this quilt in the spring to help distract me from the pain in my hand and arm. It helped!

Creating the diagonal lines allowed me to play with “value”, that is, the interaction of light and dark in the overall visual layout. I followed my mentor, Lila Rostenberg’s advice of placing the lightest values at the upper right hand corner and moved down to the lower left hand corner. Lila had explained, that since this is how we read a text in our culture, our eyes are familiar with this pattern.

For borders, I searched my stash for a fabric to add some personality to the composition. When I pulled my foxglove fabric from my stash, I knew I’d found the perfect border. Not so, because the foxglove fabric is a a “directional fabric”. I could not place the foxgloves laying on their sides as top and bottom borders.

The bottom corner shows the detail of the border and binding fabrics.

As quilters often note, this problem could be transformed into a “design opportunity”. I searched my stash without finding something I wanted to use for those top and bottom borders, so I headed to the local quilt shop. There I found the bold Phillip Jacob floral fabric for the top and bottom borders. I rushed home, cut those borders, sewed, and stepped back to admire my work. Yes, I saw personality there! The top was finished, but the quilt was only half finished.

In August 2017, all my quilting activities ceased while I prepared for my upcoming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, Greece in October. So it was not until early in 2018 that I finished the quilting. My binding choice of a fabric displaying much “inner light” was one of my final pleasures on this happy scrap quilt. I had pieced “Scrap Happy” on my ancient Singer Featherweight which has been my primary sewing machine since I bought it used in 1969. My vintage 1981 Bernina #930 is another workhorse that enabled me to do the free motion quilting I use on most of my quilts. Because I don’t see quilting as a “competitive sport”, none of my quilts will be subject to judging. For me it is the sharing of our quilts and our enthusiasms that creates community and the strong bonds quilters share with each other.

Scrap Happy is one of sixteen quilts (and five more in the small quilt auction) I’m displaying on April 5 & 6 at our big quilt show in Springdale sponsored by QUILT of Northwest Arkansas https://quiltguildnwa.edublogs.org/ Please join us that weekend. With over three hundred quilts in the show and a special exhibit of hand quilted quilts, you can spend the day with us and enjoy a lunch from Spring Street Grill.

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