Thursday, January 31, 2013

Country Living

One of the joys of living rural is the wildlife that shares our space.  Yesterday morning a flock of "prairie chickens" appeared at the edge of the driveway.  Plump birds pecked around through the snow, finding bits of this and that to eat.  Such attractive birds, beautifully coloured and seemingly fat and flourishing.  I took a few pictures to share.

Dickens was fascinated by this flock.  He stared out the window, twitching, pleading plaintively to be let out.  After a few hours the birds had left and I opened the back door to see if he still wanted to go.  He stuck his nose out the door and changed his mind.  Too cold and no enticing birds to chase.  Does he know that they would have just flown out of his reach?

This is Dickens favourite place to rest and survey his "domain."  He has gained 2 pounds over winter and now weighs 12 pounds.  That's enough to make a hefty dent in the couch cushion!

When Sam our previous cat lived with us I forbade him to rest on top of the cushion--just because it will make a permanent dent.  But Dickens is a very different cat from Sam, with much more chutzpah. I decided to choose my battles and ceded the cushion to Dickens.  On the other hand, Dickens is a much more affectionate cat than Sam, totally the most "relational" cat we've ever had.  He still wants to sit on my lap every morning for a cuddle time.  Interesting how animals have their individual characters just as people do.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nighttime Adventures

Something really strange happened last night around 12:30 a.m.  I've gotten into the habit of moving to the downstairs bedroom during the night, as I often have a hard time falling back to sleep around 2 or 3 a.m.  That way, if I'm tossing and turning I don't disturb the sleep of the Dear One.

Last night I woke up a little and realized that the quilts were quite rumpled.  I like my covers to be smooth, so I started adjusting them, smoothing them out.  It seemed that there was a layer of quite rumpled quilts to my right, so I reached out to straighten them and my hand encountered a body!  I shrieked!  And that woke both us of up.  I was still in our bed with Jim, not in the downstairs bedroom alone.

He claims I mauled him somewhat, although I have no memory of that!

I apologized, hoping he could go back to sleep without too much trouble, and I went downstairs to finish the night in the spare bedroom.  My heart was pounding from the fright I'd had, but after a while I calmed down enough to go back to sleep.

It reminded me of another funny incident that happened during the night many years ago.  I must have been having some weird dream, because I suddenly sat up in bed, took my pillow and whacked Jim over the head.  That woke him up, of course.  And in a pitiful voice he asked, "Why did you do that?"  And that woke me up.

Who knows what will happen when you go to sleep!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Good Morning, Moon

Two view of the moon in the morning, looking west from the balcony:
And turning around and looking east, no sun yet, but the sky is becoming light.
I did darken the exposure on the first two pictures to highlight the moon's pearly circle.  Sorry for the awkward placement of the photos.  I'm having many problems getting the photos into place today.  Sometimes blogger is like that!

You can enlarge these photos by clicking on them.  Looking in the window to the sewing/computer room, you can see S's quilt on the design wall.  

The snow load on the balcony is receding, but we are scheduled to receive more snow this evening, and on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I'm really tired of seeing only snow, and long for some green, but it's months away.  Yesterday at church I was chatting with a contractor who has been working outdoors all winter.  If I'm tired of snow, I don't know what to call how he is feeling at this point.

He said, Every morning I get up and I know that I will be really cold.  He's applying metal roofs to buildings and said, that metal is really cold!  I realize I should be thankful that all my work is indoors!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Moonrise and Devil's Hole

Last night we had a beautiful pearl of a moon rising to the east.  I took a few pictures and planned to blog it, so here we are.  This was taken at 5:50 p.m. on Saturday.  Now on Sunday at 5:58 p.m. I am looking at the same spot, but the moon has not shown up yet.  I wonder how much time difference there is from night to night in moonrise and moonset.

In December I was keeping track via the government weather site of sunrise and sunset times.  That proved interesting: once we passed the solstice, the sunrise time actually moved one minute later and stayed there for several days while the sunset time moved later by about 1 minute every day.  I wonder where I can find information on moonrise and moon set.

Yesterday I was reading the latest issue of The Economist, a very fine magazine published weekly in Great Britain for something like the last 150 years.  There was a small article about the endangered pupfish in Devil's Hole, Nevada.  We had visited there in October and had seen Devil's Hole.  I believe this picture was on the blog, showing the small pool about 45 feet down in a crevice.  What interested me in this article was the mention of the size of this pool: it is just 2 meters wide and 4 meters long.  (A meter is 39," or just over a yard.)  I don't remember that information being available at the park.  Perhaps I just missed it.

The other interesting thing is that this little pool has no bottom, or at least no bottom has yet been found, although it has been explored to the depth of 600 feet.  There are some amazing wonders in this world!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sunny Day

After some gloomy, cold weather we're enjoying a lovely, sunny day.  So different from yesterday with dark, snowy weather.  The view outside is the same that it has been since the end of October: completely white, but today the sun is shining, and what a difference that makes!  It's possible to feel optimistic this afternoon.  The thermometer on the balcony railing is reading +9ºC but that is misleading.  The warm sunshine on the other side of the brown wooden railing raises the temperature significantly.  The official weather site says we are at -1ºC, which in itself is a huge improvement.

We do know that we have another 2 or 3 months of winter, as, statistically, we get most of our snowfall in March and April.

In front of the window is one of Jim's pots of forced blooms to enliven and cheer the winter days.  These are new paperwhite bulbs, but they were very, very slow to start up and now that one bloom has opened, they are almost a joke.  On top of the tall, slim stem is a tiny bloom.  Beautiful! but tiny.  Here's a closeup.

He has some other pots that we put in the window sills, but Dickens is making a mess of them.  He bites off the tops of the greens, and pulls up the bulbs to play with.  Dirt all over the windowsill and floor.  Still, he's such an appealing cat we don't get after him too much for these "infractions."

Here's an update on S's quilt, the new material mentioned in my last post.  I right away made some of the blocks, to check if we were happy with the way our fabric choices worked out.  We do love the combination of fabrics.

I was quite surprised to see that the diagonal zigzag wasn't showing up very well.  That's because the darkest fabric is used in the 9 patch blocks.  I wondered if we should switch the fabric placement, and consulted S about this, but she was happy with it.  We do like how masculine the quilt appears, good for a husband/wife bedroom.

Since then I have finished all the 9 patch blocks and have 30 of the 60 shadow blocks finished.  This is a quick pattern!  I'll post another picture when there is more progress.  These blocks are only up on the design wall, not sewed together yet.

I made an unwelcome discovery when working on this quilt and on the "Cascades" that I showed earlier: When I used my 1/4" foot with the needle in center position, the 1/4" seam is too wide!  I found this out when sewing the Cascades quilt blocks together.  Those with several seams were a good 1/4" short of the size they should be.  I am compensating for that by using 1/8" seams on those blocks.  The quilting stitches on the finished quilt should be adequate to make up for the 1/8" seams, but it's not a happy situation.

Now I set the needle at 4.00, which is to the right of the center position.  That seems to be an adequate adjustment, and my blocks are coming out much closer to their true size.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


 When D.D. #2 left home for university, way back in '89, I gave her this nifty little ProctorSilex travel iron.  The handle is removable and snaps onto the sole plate for a very compact unit.  The sole plate measures just 6 1/2" x 2 3/4" so it's not too handy for ironing something like a blouse, but it is ideal for pressing piecework when I'm quilting.  She came back home after one year and stayed on with us, eventually taking her university courses in Regina, where we were living at that time.  She gave the iron back to me, and it has since become a favourite quilting tool, along with the June Taylor Cut 'n Press reversible cutting/pressing board.  When I'm piecing I need only turn to the left and press the seams as I finish them.

Lately the iron was temperamental.  Sometimes it would heat and sometimes it wouldn't.  This week I had an idea: I removed the little compartment, shown at the bottom of the iron, where the cord enters.  I thought perhaps a connection was loose in there.  What I found was a whole lot of lint, wedged around the connections.  I removed it with a tweezers, and then gave it a shot of compressed air.  So far it seems that this treatment has totally rejuvenated my favourite little iron!  Hoorah!

Then yesterday as I was sewing on a few quilt projects I had to replace the bobbin, which had run out of thread.  I've been noticing that the bobbin
race had a lot of lint around it, and thought, Now's the time to clean that out!  After a half hour of tweezing, brushing and poking around with a pipe cleaner I had dug out all these hunks of lint.  And, actually, after I took the picture I found some more in there to dig out.  Then I applied one drop of machine oil to the wick in the centre of the bobbin race.  What a difference it made to the machine!  How quietly and smoothly it runs now!

I had known for some time that this needed to be done.  Next time, I promised myself, I won't wait so long!

I did try turning this machine, a Janome Horizon, upside down (all unplugged, of course) to see if I could removed the casing on the bottom of the machine, but that was no go.  My previous machine, a Janome 6400, could be opened up and the dust, lint and threads that had accumulated in the bottom could be swept out.  But I'll have to take this Janome in to have it serviced every few years.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Fabric

On Monday my friend S. and I went to Country Creations south of Strathmore to look for material for a queen sized quilt for her bedroom.  We had a simple pattern of a shadow box alternated with a 9 patch.  The pattern showed a quilt with florals in blues and greens, and a white plain square in the centre of the shadow box.

Florals are not in great supply right now, especially blue florals, but there are tons of gorgeous batiks.  We found several batiks that we really loved and that rhymed well colour-wise with the curtains she already has in the bedroom.

The three fabrics on the left are for the shadow block, the next three fabrics are for the 9 patch, the beige the centre, the lighter blue the middle sides, and the dark blue the corner squares.  The rusty coloured fabric on the right will be the binding.

She also bought some good Hobbs batting and a 108" backing of Stonehenge.  I bought the same for the batik quilt that I showed in progress in my last post.

Just behind the fabrics for S's quilt you can see the two borders that I sewed onto the "fruit" lap quilt, also illustrated in my last post.

On Tuesday I was teaching machine quilting at our town quilt club and figured I wouldn't get any sewing done, so I took S's fabric along to begin cutting, hoping to make at least one shadow block and one 9 patch.  I didn't have much time because I took two hours out of the afternoon to go teach some violin lessons.

Everything went very well, and I did get one shadow block finished and 3 of the 6 strips sewn for the 9 patch.  I'll post the progress as we go.

So, somehow, because all of this is so inviting to me, I am in the middle of three projects at once.  The lap quilt is almost ready to be quilted, just have to baste the three layers.  That won't take long.  I want to make a few of the shadow blocks and 9 patches so we can see how the quilt will turn out.  But then I have to finish up my batik queen sized top, so that it doesn't lie on the floor downstairs and turn into a "rug"!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


I had hoped to do a lot of sewing over this three week holiday from teaching.  However, the first two weeks I simply sat around reading book after book and recuperating from having been too busy in November and December.  One of the best books I read was a short paperback novel by Garrison Keillor, A Christmas Blizzard.  It was thoroughly enjoyable.  I remembered as I read it that I had heard the whole book read a year ago, read by Keillor himself, while I was sewing a lap quilt for the DDIL.  I enjoyed it when I heard it and I enjoyed it again when I read it.

This past week I finally roused myself to do some sewing on a quilt I started last June.  When our town quilt club went on its yearly "shop hop" I was determined NOT to buy any fabric, consistent with my huge desire to finish projects and not start any new ones.  BUT at Country Creations I saw a quilt that really captured me.  It was available as a kit, but only in single bed size, so I purchased two single bed kits, in order to make a large quilt for a queen sized bed.  I ended up spending more on fabric there than any other member of the club.  Talk about having to "eat your words!"

Last summer I made all the blocks required for a single bed, plus all the four patches needed for the rest of the queen size quilt.  This past week I put together the rest of the blocks and started sewing them together.  Today I was working on adding the sashing between the blocks.  Only the upper right hand corner is finished, but it's looking good!  Our bedroom here is green, so the quilt will not be used there.  Jim suggested using it at our condo in Arizona, so that's the plan.  This is the first batik quilt that I've made, and I'm really liking it.

I usually attend two quilting groups, one in town and one in the country.  Last year I took a year off from the country group because I was president of the town group for that year.  Plus, it was the year I went back to teaching violin and conducting the small string group, and that, along with a few other "civic" duties was more than enough.

This past Thursday I went back to the country group.  The queen size quilt project above had to remain at home, in order to keep all the blocks where they belong, and not risk mixing up the order.  So I needed another project to work on.

I bought the material for a lap quilt for the DDIL a year ago December in a very fine fabric store in Coquitlam, when we were visiting DS#2 and his family.  This lap quilt (with borders) was on display there and both DDIL and myself were very taken with it.  But the store did not have any kits for the quilts it had on display. That  meant buying yardage, which in turn meant that there was enough of each fabric to produce two lap quilts the same.  After I finished the lap quilt for DDIL I packaged up the remainder of fabric in a large plastic ziplock, so that was the project I grabbed to take along.

Thursday I cut out the blocks, cut them apart according to the directions.  Each block was cut in half, sewed to another block, cut in half again, and sewed to a different half.  By the time I left to go home all 24 blocks were complete.  Today I sewed them together, and am quite enjoying the result.  It needs a small inner border and a larger outer border to complete the top.  It's a simple lap quilt, but quite vibrant.  I plan to gift it to a friend sometime this year.

I'll post pictures of both quilts when they are finished.

Oh, and Happy New Year!